A permanent cure for peanut allergies could be less than three years away, according to doctors at Addenbrookes hospital, Cambridge.
The breakthrough offers hope to thousands of British children who suffer potentially fatal allergies to peanuts.
The researchers say they have “effectively cured” 21 children of their allergy by giving them tiny amounts of peanut flour each day to build up tolerance to the food.
Lead researcher Dr Andrew Clark said the peanut flour retrained the children’s faulty immune systems. “The families say it’s changed their lives. That’s our real motivation – to try to develop that as a clinical treatment that we could spread to the rest of the country,” he explained. “And it’s not going to stop at peanuts. There’s no scientific reason why it won’t work with other foods.”
One British child in every 50 suffers from a peanut allergy and the numbers are rising. Reactions range from mild itching and rashes to life threatening swelling of the airways, breathing problems and severe asthma. On average, 7 children die from peanut allergies every year.
Dr Clark hopes that the cure will be widely available within a matter of years but warns parents not to try giving their child peanut flour at home – it can only safely be carried out in a hospital.
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