Peanut allergies can be life-threatening to some children, but scientists at Duke University may be on the verge of a breakthrough for the condition.
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A Breakthrough in Children's Peanut Allergy Dr. Travis Stork: How serious peanut allergies are becoming especially for children. But there is promising research that a cure might be on the horizon. Male: This is what’s for breakfast at the Vande Berg home, every morning, cereal, juice and for eight-year-old Caroline, chocolate covered peanuts just as a speck of one peanut would have caused a severe reaction a few years ago. Caroline is among the selected group of study patients at Duke who are now off of treatment in eating a daily maintenance dose of peanuts. Over years ago Duke pediatric immunologist, Dr. Weasley Burks began treating Caroline with one 1000s of a peanut enough to trigger a minor allergic response. Dr. Weasley Burks: And then we began to increase that dose and then after six to eight months, we’re giving them the equivalent of about one peanut. Male: Caroline and some other children in the study can now eat about 15 to 16 peanuts. Janet Vande Berg: There’s no sleepovers, no snore, there’s no sneeze. There’s nothing. Male: Potentially, the body builds tolerance quickly. Janet Vande Berg: It’s just knowing that we can send her wherever she wants to go and she can try whatever she wants to eat and there's not going to be any reaction. Dr. Travis Stork: So pretty exciting, very similar to what we’re talking about before you expose someone to the allergens slowly overtime, in this case peanuts, with the hope that you cure the child of the allergy in itself. Dr. Lisa Masterson: This is going to be very scary for parents. I mean — Dr. Jim Sears: Peanut allergy is very scary because you send them out to school and you don’t know who’s going to give them what. Now this isn’t necessarily so they can go out and eat a lot of peanuts. It’s more so that they are protected in case they get exposed to peanuts accidentally. Dr. Lisa Masterson: Right. Dr. Travis Stork: If your child has a peanut allergy always have an EpiPen with you and the reason the EpiPen is so crucial is once exposed to that peanut what can happen is a huge histamine release and the epinephrine will actually get into the bloodstream, help constrict those blood vessels so that they don’t get severely hypotensive. It will help them breathe more easily, and a lot of times these kids will get diffuse swelling of the tongue and the lips and the epinephrine will actually prevent that or reverse that course so that your child can be kept alive until you get them to the hospital. Dr. Lisa Masterson: Right. Dr. Travis Stork: And peanut allergies, we’ve talked about it, we had Trace Adkins on the show before. Any parent who has a child who suffers from this they know how scary it can be so this is truly an exciting new technology and let’s cross our fingers that at some point it will be viable.