Researchers Develop Nasal Vaccine that Could Cure Peanut and Other Food Allergies

The vaccine that alters the immune reactions to food was successfully tested in mice, and here is how it can also benefit humans.

An allergy associated with peanuts is much more prevalent in recent years, and it is among the most common food allergies found in children in the United States. Life-threatening conditions like Anaphylaxis is one of the most severe allergic reactions caused due to peanuts.

The only possible treatment associated with peanut allergies is to eliminate the food that contains the use of nuts or undergo an oral immunotherapy, where the patient is given increasing doses of food containing peanuts over time. However, such treatments never help the patient to get rid of their allergy completely, and the allergic response returns back once the therapy is stopped.

However, a new vaccine developed by researchers at the University of Michigan has been found to treat food allergies. In their study, a peanut allergic mice were immunized with a nasal vaccine, capable to activate a different type of immune response in order to prevent allergic symptoms.

We’re changing the way the immune cells respond upon exposure to allergens,” said lead author Jessica O’Konek, Ph.D., a research investigator at the food allergy center. “Importantly, we can do this after an allergy is established, which provides for potential therapy of allergies in humans.”

“By redirecting the immune responses, our vaccine not only suppresses the response but prevents the activation of cells that would initiate allergic reactions.”

Their research involved sensitizing mice to peanut with aluminum hydroxide or cholera toxin. The animals were then administered 3 monthly doses of vaccine along with peanut flour. Mice were then given peanuts to study the allergic reactions.

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A One-Time Treatment Could Provide Life-Long Protection from Allergies

The animals responded to peanut allergies similarly to affected humans, showing symptoms of itchy skin and trouble in breathing. The results considered two weeks after the final dose of the vaccine, however, suppressed the allergies.

“Right now, the only FDA-approved way to address food allergy is to avoid the food or suppress allergic reactions after they have already started,” O’Konek said. “Our goal is to use immunotherapy to change the immune system’s response by developing a therapeutic vaccine for food allergies.”

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The study is still going on to identify the longevity of the protection by the new vaccine. But, researchers believe that these findings will help them to understand more about how food allergies develop and how the immune system can be altered to treat them.

In February this year, the Californian-based Aimmune Therapeutics also developed capsules consisting of peanut powder to treat serious allergic reactions to peanuts in children by building tolerance against it. Their six-months long study involved 500 kids ages 4 to 17, and out of which 67 percent were able to tolerate the equivalent of two peanuts.

The company is planning to seek U.S. FDA approval for the treatment later this year.

In another research last year, scientists in the US developed a Viaskin Peanut patch that could help the wearer to build up the tolerance against peanut allergy. In a span of one year, the patients using the patch showed ten-fold increase in the tolerance.

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Medical researchers like these are bringing us closer to find a permanent cure for food allergies.

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