Putting Peanut Allergies Back in Their Shell
By Tamer Abouras
These days, it seems pretty common to have a friend or relative who unfortunately suffers from a peanut allergy, lactose intolerance or Celiac Disease. Off the top of my head, I can think of two cousins and several close friends who fit into some or all three of those classifications, seemingly resigned to live their entire lives without ever being able to enjoy a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a glass of cold milk.
For my part, I have an allergy to shellfish, so I’ll never know what it’s like to crack open a crab or gobble up shrimp like chicken wings. And while it’s a misnomer to believe these allergies are a new phenomenon — we just happen to be more conscious of them and more equipped to detect them now — they’re nonetheless an unpleasant fact of life for many, oftentimes beginning in childhood.
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There is some emerging research, however, which suggests that allergies may be something we could eventually treat or cutoff altogether — provided they’re spotted and addressed early enough in life, before they have the chance to fully develop.
According to a press release from National Jewish Health, “Simultaneous pre-treatment with antihistamines that block both the H1 and H4 antihistamine receptors suppressed the gastrointestinal symptoms of food allergy in mice. The findings, published online in the journal Allergy, provide new insight into the development of food allergy and suggest potential therapies for prevention and treatment of food allergy.”
The release continued, saying, “Although recent findings have suggested that early exposure to peanuts can help prevent peanut allergy, the only effective therapy currently available for existing cases remains avoidance. Meiquin Wang, MD, PhD, Erwin Gelfand, MD, and their colleagues at National Jewish Health pretreated mice sensitized to peanut with the H1 receptor antagonist loratadine (Claritin), and the experimental H4 receptor antagonist JNJ7777120, separately and in combination.”
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As far as the results, they were promising.
“Separately, the two antihistamines had some effect on the intestinal response of the sensitized mice to peanut,” the report stated. “When mice were pre-treated with both antihistamines together, diarrhea, intestinal inflammation and other symptoms were almost completely blocked. In vitro experiments indicated that the antihistamines work by suppressing the accumulation and function of dendritic cells, which take up peanut protein and present it to T cells of the immune system.”
So perhaps there’s no hope for those aforementioned friends and family members who have never partaken of that classic American lunch. For their children, however, who might otherwise inherit their allergic reactions, this research may provide some hope.