CLEVELAND — It’s the most serious of all food allergies and the most likely to cause a fatal reaction, but an experimental treatment is giving people hope.
Clinical trials are nearly completed on a new oral immunotherapy treatment for peanut allergies called AR101.
“The product is actually peanut protein,” said Allergist and Immunologist Dr. Sandra Hong with the Cleveland Clinic.
Patients start with an amount equal to 1/10th of a peanut and the amount is gradually increased every couple of weeks.
Nearly 500 children between the ages of 4 and 17 have been given the therapy and 2/3 were able to end up tolerating a peanut in their diet without having an allergic reaction.
“Which is huge,” said Dr. Hong, “They found that after 6 to 9 months these children can tolerate a full peanut every day in their diet, up to 3 to 4 peanuts total at the end, which is incredible.”
The therapy is offering hope for parents and children everywhere, because there has been a 20% increase in peanut allergies over the last couple decades.
An estimated 1 in every 50 children now suffers from a peanut allergy, which can be unpredictable and most likely to cause a life-threatening reaction.
“Even the tiniest amount can cause a life-threatening reaction,” said Dr. Hong.
The allergy can be overwhelming, says Dr. Shailey Desai whose six-year-old son, Avi, is allergic to both peanuts and cashews.
She said accidental exposures can happen anywhere.
“You know, we’ve had to use an EpiPen in that scenario and it’s just extremely scary,” said Dr. Desai.
And, each reaction could intensify without warning.
Michael Suhy’s daughter, Allison Rose, had always only had minor reactions to peanuts, until one day at college.
“She ingested something that had a nut in it,” said Michael, “She was unconscious. They lifeflighted her to Columbus. She spent 4 days there and there was too much damage done, so she passed away.”
Michael hopes the new treatment will save lives and has also started the Allison Rose Foundation to educate people on the prevalence and dangers of peanut allergies.
He’s trying to raise awareness and teach people how to quickly respond to anaphylactic shock.
“We teach CPR. We teach stroke awareness, which is great, but how many kids are gonna do CPR in their life, but food allergies, there’s probably 6-8 of them sitting in the classroom,” said Michael. “Train everybody with it; everyone should know signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis.”