New research out of Australia appears to have found a way to train the human body to overcome a peanut allergy, one of the most common and deadly allergies in the world.
The discovery was made at Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Victoria, where a team of researchers treated children with an experimental immunotherapy treatment as part of a small clinical trial, according to the Australian Associated Press.
Rather than avoid the allergen altogether, the researchers designed a treatment that combined a probiotic with peanut oral immunotherapy to trigger an immune system response. The hope was that the immune system would reprogram its response to peanuts and—over time—develop a tolerance to the allergen.
The approach worked for 82% of the 48 children who were given the treatment daily for 18 months in 2013. Now, four years later, the majority of those children are still able to consume peanuts in their diets without adverse reactions, according to the research, which was published this week in The Lancet Journal of Child and Adolescent Health.
For decades the peanut allergy was the top cause of anaphylaxis, which within seconds can trigger the immune system to release a variety of chemicals that can cause a person to go into shock, among other things. Each year in the US, more than 200,000 people require emergency care related to an anaphylaxis reaction to an allergen, according to the Mayo Clinic.
With that kind of prevalence of allergic reactions, the discovery in Australia could represent a major medical breakthrough on a global scale.