A study funded by the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (or FAAN) recently uncovered potential clues to why peanut allergies develop in some children, but not others. Researchers are trying to answer this question in order to learn how to prevent peanut allergies from occurring in the first place.
According to , the researchers believe that early exposure to peanuts through the skin could be a determining factor of whether a child will develop an allergy to peanuts. Their findings were published in the March edition of 'Allergy,' the European Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
Researchers at St. Thomas' Hospital in London examined the blood cells of children diagnosed with peanut allergies, comparing them with the blood cells of children who did not have a peanut allergy. They noted that the immune cells that respond to peanut allergens appear to carry a 'surface marker,' which offers clues about where the child's body first encountered the peanut allergen. There are different markers for exposure through the skin (environmental exposure) or the digestive system (by eating peanuts). The researchers found that the skin exposure marker was associated with a diagnosis of peanut allergy.
Dr. Gideon Lack, professor of pediatric allergy at King’s College London and one of the study's authors, explained that the results of the study are "Consistent with the hypothesis that the route of exposure affects whether peanut allergy develops." He continued "Skin exposure may be linked to peanut allergy, while eating peanuts early may protect from peanut allergy." FAAN CEO Maria L. Acebal commented "Can you imagine being able to prevent children from developing a life-threatening allergy to peanut? That is the incredible promise of this important study."