An estimated 2% of the world`s population suffers from a peanut allergy. Their everyday lives are riddled with problems because so many foodstuffs contain trace amounts of Peanuts. For allergy sufferers, this can be very dangerous and even deadly. The quality of life for these people suffers dramatically as a result. It can cause eataing disorders or anti-social behaviour.
The Solution for Allergy Sufferers?
A French Company seems to have found a way forward. It has developed a desensitization patch. The patch is applied for a period of time lasting three years and allows allergy sufferers to consume small amounts of peanuts.
What Exactly is an Allergy?
An allergy is an dysfunction of the body`s immune system. Normally, the immune system forms antibodies to combat viruses. With an allergy, the immune system simply deceives itself. It identifies at allergen (cat hair, for example) as an aggressor, even though it poses no threat whatsoever. This results in over-reactions, which mainfest themselves in many ways: a runny nose, sneezing or the formation of welts. In most cases, allergies can be treated by desensitization, using injections or swallowing small amounts of the substance causing the allergic reaction. But when it comes to peanuts and food, this approach is generally too risky. With an aim of promoting a tolerance to Peanuts (or, more precisely, the proteins found in peanuts) a safe way of administering drugs has not been developed. It allows the immune system to adapt, without involving the blood circulatory system.
The Solution is a Patch
A patch containing purified peanut protein is applied to the skin. The Proteins are dissolved by sweat and are transported to the lympgh nodes, without ever entering the bloodstream and triggering anaphylactitc shock. Throughout the course fo treatment, the amount of protein is gradually increased. So that the immune system becomes accustomed (or „desensitized“) to the allergy trigger.
How can the proteins be applied to the patch without adhesive? In the case of nicotine patches, the dose is contained in the adhesive. This is not possible with proteins, partly because of the size of the molecules. Instead, the protein is sprayed onto the patch in powder form (250 micrograms). The powder adheres to the patch due to electrostatic force.
Peanuts – Fighting the Allergy
The first results have been promising. In one study, approximately 80% of patients were able to tolerate an increased dose over a 2 year period of time. In some cases the increase was as high at 1,000 times! The patch is expected to be commercially available in the USA beginning in 2018. The approvals can be accelerated by Fast Track Designation. Peanut allergies are a public health problem in the USA where peanuts form not only part of the ever popoular peanut butter. They are also found in many other foods.
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