Discoveries Made About Peanut and Food Allergies in 2014

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It's difficult to keep up with peanut and food allergy research.

Here's a cheat-sheet highlighting the peanut/food allergy research done in 2014. This is just enough information to keep you on top of developments that may someday impact your or a family member's life.

Eight 2014 Discoveries

  1. Early Epinephrine Linked to Less Hospitalization.There is a significantly lower risk of hospitalization after food-related anaphylaxis when the patient receives ephinephrine before getting emergency services.In a Rhode Island study, 41 percent of those who did not receive early epinephrine needed to be hospitalized. Only 17 percent of those who received an early epinephrine dose required hospitalization.
  2. High Misuse of Epinephrine Auto-Injectors. You may want to re-watch your auto-injector training video. In a study out of Texas, only 16 percent of participants used their auto-injectors correctly.The most common errors noted were a failure to put the needle end of the injector on the thigh, failure to hold the injector in place for a minimum of ten seconds after triggering it, and failure to depress the injector with enough force to activate the injection.
  3. Peanut Desensitization Study.A study was conducted at a Cambridge research facility to test the effectiveness of oral immunotherapy (OIT), or desensitization, for children with peanut allergies. The study participants in the active group, aged 7 to 16 years, were given small doses of peanut flour for six months.The OIT resulted in a “clinically meaningful increase” in peanut threshold for many participants, meaning their bodies were less reactive to peanuts. The immunology reports indicated desensitization occurred and their quality of life was improved. Although the OIT was well tolerated by most participants, researchers stated it should not be attempted in non-specialist settings.
  4. Upgrading OIT Compounds. OIT (oral immunotherapy) desensitizes individuals to specific allergens by giving them minuscule doses of an allergen. Although it has been proven to be effective, some people experience dangerous allergic reactions to the therapeutic doses. Scientists in North Carolina are working on a way to eliminate these reactions.The scientists discovered when vegetable and fruit plant compounds called polyphenols bound to the peanut flour protein used in OIT, the protein became masked. When the peanut protein is masked, the peanut flour is more hypoallergenic—less likely to cause an allergic reaction. This discovery could make OIT use safer and more marketable.
  5. EoE and Food Allergies.Eosinophilic Esophagitis (EoE) is a swelling or inflammation of the esophagus owed to a large number of eosinophils, or white blood cells, in the esophageal tissue. The most common EoE triggers seem to be milk, egg, soy, and wheat products.Research done at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia show that people who outgrow an allergy to a specific food have an increased risk of developing EoE in response to the same food.
  6. Genes and the Environment. A team of researchers in Melbourne are looking at the interaction between genetics and changes in the environment, or epigenetics. Epigenetics is the study of environmental factors that influence whether a certain gene is switched on or off, or is expressed strongly or weakly.The scientists found that children with food allergies had several genetic switches that differ from kids with no allergies. Many of these genetic differences were present at birth in most of the study’s cases. This means the genetic alterations related to food allergies occurred early in the child’s development, even as early as gestation.
  7. Peanut Residue and Porous Skin. It seems a predisposition to peanut allergy occurs not only through the mother’s peanut ingestion during pregnancy and breastfeeding, but also by having disrupted skin (e.g., scratched, inflamed, irritated) can expose children to allergens present in the environment, including peanut residue carried by dust particles in the home. Disrupted skin is more porous and can trigger an allergic immune response in the distressed area. Peanut residue might penetrate the affected skin while the immune system is geared towards allergy, setting the child up for an eventual peanut allergic reaction. Susceptible children in the study also had a mutated FLG gene that is associated with porous skin
  8. What Doctors Might Not Know. Doctors have a lot to remember. Of 409 pediatric or internal medicine physicians surveyed, only half knew the that most effective initial treatment for symptoms of hives and vomiting after ingesting a known food allergen is epinephrine. Just 27 percent of the pediatricians surveyed knew the main triggers of food allergy in preschool children are eggs or milk.

Sources: AAAA-I; Herald Sun; The Lancet; NCSU; Allergic Living; JACI; annallergy; Peanut Allergy Photo credit nhuisman / flickr creative commons

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