Over 30 million people living in the U.S. develop allergic reactions to food annually, with some 5.4 million adults and 1.6 million children living with a peanut allergy. Sometimes, these reactions can be fatal.
In order to counter such strong allergic reactions to peanuts specifically, a team of experts has started trials of an experimental toothpaste on a small group of people allergic to peanuts.
The hope is that by being regularly exposed to small doses of the allergen, these people will build up and maintain a natural defense against it. As it's already an established part of adults and childrens' daily routine — at least, we hope so — it'll also hopefully provide an easier therapeutical method than current ones, say its creators at Intrommune Therapeutics.
How peanut allergy is treated
Oral immunotherapy, one of the current treatments against food allergies, requires users to ingest daily doses of the allergen in their daily doses of food, which can sometimes trigger relatively strong allergic reactions.
Another treatment, sublingual immunotherapy, is a gentler method that delivers microdoses of the allergen in the form of drops placed beneath the tongue. However, this method can more easily be left out of a daily routine, and it's believed the best immune cells to target for such allergens are in our cheeks, not under our tongue, say the experts working on the toothpaste therapy.
So, using toothpaste with embedded allergens more quickly and easily targets the immune cells in our cheeks.
And as brushing teeth is already a regular daily habit, it's hard to forget to carry out this therapy, which is also offered in smaller doses, thus not triggering strong allergic reactions.
It has to be pointed out, though, that such a therapy could also face certain disadvantages. For instance, when a patient's gums are inflamed or sore, such as after a tooth is pulled out or dental work has been carried out, the allergens could have direct access to the bloodstream, which could bring about strong allergic reactions.
The Intrommune Therapeutics team gained its clearance from the FDA in February to start conducting trials of the toothpaste, so time will tell if this therapy will be added to the list for food allergies, specifically against peanuts.