Researchers Study Possible Peanut Allergy Vaccine

Posted on: Wed, 08/24/2005 - 9:09am
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POSTED: 2:28 pm EDT August 24, 2005

Those who suffer from peanut allergies may soon enjoy the feeling of peanut butter stuck to the roofs of their mouths.

Researchers are preparing to study trials of a human peanut allergy vaccine. The American Academy of Allergy and Immunology estimates that more than 1 million Americans suffer from peanut allergies.

"We are just now at the point where we have a product that we feel will be safe to people to give them," said Dr. Wesley Burks, who is part of a national food allergy research consortium that has been developing a peanut allergy vaccine.

The experimental therapy works much like the desensitization shots people receive to overcome more common allergies.

"They might accidentally eat a cookie with peanuts and then not have a reaction," Burks said.

But because even a small amount of peanuts can prove deadly, the scientists had to modify peanut proteins in the vaccine -- a major hurdle that took years to prefect.

"We've actually taken those allergenic portions out of it, so that's what we'll use for the vaccine, it's like a hypoallergenic peanut product," Burks said.

Now the therapy will open a five-year human study.

"Ultimately, what you would hope to do is to truly make them tolerant so that their allergies go away, that's what we hope to do with the vaccine," Burks said.

Burks said the researchers hope to start testing the peanut allergy vaccine in adults and adolescents in the next six months. Study subjects will receive a series of shots.

The researchers said if the therapy proves effective, they hope to use the vaccine as a model to develop strategies to treat milk, eggs and other food allergies.

The Food Allergy consortium, led by Dr. Hugh Sampson, of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, will receive approximately $17 million over five years from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Additionally, the institute will provide a $5 million grant to the Rockville, Md.-based Emmes Corp. to fund a statistical center to support the consortium.

The clinical and observational studies will take place at five clinical sites, including:

Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore
Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, N.C.
University of Arkansas Children's Hospital Research Institute, Little Rock, Ark.
National Jewish Medical and Research Center, Denver

For information about participating in the Food Allergy Research Consortium's clinical and observational studies, contact Mount Sinai by dialing (212) 241-5548.

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