For those who suffer with peanut allergies — one of the most severe food allergies found in modern diets — help might be on the way in the form of a skin patch.
According to a study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, a small circular skin strip, called the Viaskin peanut patch, may hold the key to treating peanut allergies. During a year-long study performed by the Consortium of Food Allergy Research, researchers tested 74 allergic peanut allergic volunteers ages 4 through 20 to find out if the patch could increase their overall peanut threshold.
The patch, also called epicutaneous immunotherapy, works by releasing peanut proteins into the skin. This process internally helps to build cellular tolerance to the peanuts.
“To avoid potentially life-threatening allergic reactions, people with peanut allergies must be vigilant about the foods they eat and the environments they enter, which can be very stressful,” said NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. “One goal of experimental approaches such as epicutaneous immunotherapy is to reduce this burden by training the immune system to tolerate enough peanut to protect against accidental ingestion or exposure.”
All participants who received high doses of the peanut protein were able to consume more peanuts after one year. The Viaskin peanut patch was most effective in children and young adults between ages 4 to 11, but was noticeably less effective in older participants ages 12 and up, according to a statement from the National Institutes of Health.
The main concern about Viaskin, which is still undergoing testing and is not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), was if the patch would cause adverse health reactions. But 80 percent of the kids who took part in the study using both the low and high dose strength versions of the peanut patch only experienced a mild reaction — bumps and redness on the skin areas surrounding the patch.
While the peanut patch is a step in the right direction in aiding and helping those with peanut allergy issues — and is also a great option for children with a fear of needles — at this time it won’t make peanut allergies extinct. Nor will it help those allergy sufferers who dream of diving into a jar of peanut butter. But, it can provide hope and protection for those accidentally exposed to peanuts. The patch is also an important foundation and first step of research that can lead to permanent solutions for longtime peanut allergy sufferers.
Ronke Idowu Reeves is a writer and journalist who hails from Brooklyn, NY. Her news and entertainment stories have appeared on WABC-TV-New York, Fox News Channel, VH1, BET.com plus in Sundance Film Festival’s Sundance Daily Insider and People Magazine.