Scientists may have developed a drug that could protect children with a peanut allergy from potentially life-threatening allergic reactions. The drug is called AR101 and is developed by Aimmune Therapeutics. The results of a clinical trial of the drug were recently discussed at a conference of the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology in Seattle. The results will soon be published in The New England Journal of Medicine.
It has been estimated that roughly one in 50 children in the United States is allergic to peanuts. Children with severe peanut allergies can have potentially deadly reactions when exposed. For these children, exposure to peanuts can cause anaphylaxis, an acute allergic reaction that can include constriction of the airways.
The study participants completed a yearlong clinical trial of the regimen. During the course of the trial, the children were gradually exposed to peanut protein over the course of six months. The six months of treatment was followed by six months of maintenance therapy. Aimmune Therapeutics designed and sponsored the clinical trial.
At the end of the trial, two-thirds of the children who received the treatment were able to ingest the equivalent of two peanuts without developing allergic symptoms, versus 4 percent of the control group. Slightly more than 4 percent of children receiving the active drug experienced side effects categorized as severe. The treatment was not effective in the small number of adults enrolled.
Allergist Stephen Tilles, MD, study co-author and consulting advisor for Aimmune Therapeutics, said, “On average, the participants were able to tolerate a 100-fold higher dose of peanut at the end of the study than they did at the beginning.” The study’s authors noted that patients would need to stay on the drug in order to receive protection against the allergy.
The goal of the treatment is not to cure the allergy, but to reduce the high risks of an accidental exposure to trace amounts. For those with a severe allergy, simply kissing someone who has eaten peanut butter or accidentally consuming something that has been in a facility that uses peanuts in other products can be life-threatening. The success of this drug would remove a lot of the anxiety felt by both sufferers and their parents when a peanut allergy is in play.