If you have an allergy to peanuts, we have something very interesting to share: An experimental skin patch is showing encouraging results in the treatment of peanut allergies in highly allergic toddlers, providing a glimmer of hope for effectively managing accidental exposures.

Peanut allergy is a prevalent and potentially life-threatening condition, leaving parents of allergic children constantly vigilant in preventing emergency situations during social gatherings, and at the present moment, there is no cure for peanut allergies.

The sole available treatment is a specialized peanut powder designed for children aged 4+, which helps guard against severe reactions, however, a skin patch called Viaskin seeks to provide an alternative therapy by delivering peanut allergens through the skin. In a notable study involving toddlers aged 1 to 3, researchers reported that Viaskin enabled previously intolerant individuals to safely consume small amounts of peanuts.

The Viaskin patch enabled highly allergic toddlers to consume small amounts of peanuts (Image: “Peanuts, LEAP study (Learning Early About Peanut allergy).” by jlcampbell104)

Dr. Matthew Greenhawt, an allergist at Children’s Hospital Colorado and one of the study leaders, underscored the potential significance of these findings, emphasizing their ability to address a significant unmet need. Approximately 2% of children in the United States have peanut allergies, with even minuscule quantities capable of triggering severe and potentially life-threatening reactions.

These individuals experience an exaggerated immune response upon consuming peanut-containing foods, leading to symptoms such as hives, wheezing, and more. While some children outgrow their allergies, most must adhere to strict avoidance measures and carry emergency medication to counteract severe reactions in case of accidental ingestion.

Approximately 2% of children in the United States have peanut allergies (Image: “Walnuts and peanuts” by viZZZual.com)

The Viaskin patch, coated with peanut protein absorbed through the skin, shows promise as a treatment for peanut allergies in toddlers. In a study involving 362 allergic toddlers, they were randomly assigned to wear either the Viaskin patch or a placebo patch daily for one year.

The results revealed that approximately two-thirds of the toddlers using the Viaskin patch could safely consume an increased amount of peanuts, equivalent to three to four peanuts, compared to around one-third in the placebo group. While four recipients of the Viaskin patch experienced patch-related anaphylaxis, three were successfully treated, and only one participant withdrew from the study.

Allergic reactions from accidental peanut consumption were less frequent among Viaskin users than those using the placebo patches, with the most common side effect being skin irritation at the patch site.

Fewer side effects when compared to oral medication

Published in the New England Journal of Medicine, these encouraging findings represent a significant advancement in expanding treatment options for food allergies in toddlers. Dr. Alkis Togias of the National Institutes of Health advises caution when comparing oral and skin-based treatments, as each approach may have its own advantages and disadvantages.

Oral therapy may offer stronger effects but could potentially cause more side effects. As research continues, these results provide hope for toddlers and their families affected by peanut allergies.

DBV Technologies, the company behind the Viaskin patch, has encountered challenges in bringing the product to market. The FDA has requested additional safety data for toddlers, and ongoing studies are examining longer-term treatment effects, including one involving children aged 4 to 7. Despite these hurdles, the promising outcomes of the Viaskin patch study signal a potential breakthrough in managing peanut allergies among toddlers.

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