Home NEWS ‘Life-saving’ jab could stop peanut allergies ‘for up to six weeks’

‘Life-saving’ jab could stop peanut allergies ‘for up to six weeks’

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A potentially life-saving new jab has given hope to those seriously allergic to nuts.

People with severe peanut allergies were able to eat a nut’s worth of protein two weeks after being given an antibody injection, as part of groundbreaking research.

The findings in a small pilot study, published in the journal JCI Insight, provide early evidence that the antibody can last for up to six weeks and is a safe, effective and rapid food allergy treatment.

Millions of people worldwide suffer from food allergies.

The only existing treatment, oral immunotherapy, involves patients eating tiny, gradually escalating doses under medical supervision. Adrenaline can also be used to help people with severe reactions.

Desensitising someone to their allergens with oral immunotherapy takes six months to a year, and can cause reactions along the way.

Yet 73% of the people who received the new antibody could eat a modest amount of peanut protein just 15 days after a single injection of the treatment.

One of the study’s authors, Stanford University Professor Kari Nadeau, said: ‘What’s great about this treatment as an option for food allergies is that people did not have to eat the food to get desensitised.

‘Although this is still in the experimental stages, we’re delivering on the hope of testing a drug that won’t be for one food allergy but for many, and for other allergic diseases, too.’

The antibody treatment, called etokimab, interferes with the action of interleukin-33, an immune-signaling molecule.

The research team explained that the IL-33 triggers a cascade of immune-system responses that culminate in allergic reactions.

In someone with a peanut allergy, eating a bite of a peanut causes IL-33 to activate a second immune actor, immunoglobin E. IgE is plentiful in those with allergies and fuels various aspects of the allergic response: mouth and throat itchiness, hives, breathing difficulties and anaphylactic shock, which can be fatal.

The researchers compare activating IL-33 in someone with a food allergy to touching a match to a pile of tinder.

But they suggest the antibody treatment has the effect of putting the match into a bowl of water.

USA Professor Nadeau continued: ‘By inhibiting IL-33, we potentially inhibit features of all allergies, which is promising.’

In the study, 15 adults with severe peanut allergies received a single injection of etokimab, while five others, who also had severe peanut allergies, received a placebo.

Participants then tried eating a small amount of peanut protein 15 days later.

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In the etokimab group, 11 of 15 people could eat 275mg of peanut protein – one nut’s worth – without an allergic reaction; but no placebo recipients could do so.

By Day 45, four out of seven people tested in the etokimab group passed the food challenge, while no placebo recipients did.

Prof Nadeau added: ‘We were surprised how long the effects of the treatment lasted.’

She also confirmed that none of the participants in the trial reported severe side effects.

The research team plan to repeat the study with more participants and look for biomarkers to identify which patients could benefit from the antibody treatment.

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