People allergic to peanuts may have a new way to protect themselves from severe allergic reactions to accidental peanut exposure. It’s called sublingual immunotherapy – or SLIT – and it involves putting a minuscule amount of liquefied peanut protein under the tongue, where it is absorbed immediately into the blood stream to desensitize the immune system to larger amounts of peanut protein.
Published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, the research shows that SLIT could offer patients a safe and effective way to protect themselves from severe allergic reactions or even anaphylaxis. Dr. Quefeng Li, assistant professor in the Department of Biostatistics at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health, was a study co-author.
Clinician scientists have developed three main immunotherapeutic ways to treat nut allergies, and all of them attempt to desensitize the immune system to nut proteins to help patients avoid severe allergic reactions. About 100 mg of peanut protein can trigger a severe allergic reaction. That’s the sort of trace amount people fear can show up in food “manufactured in a facility that processes peanuts.” For reference, one peanut kernel contains about 300 mg.
“The main idea behind immunotherapy is not for kids to be able to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches,” the study authors said. “It’s to keep them safe from the small hidden exposures that could occur with packaged foods and at restaurants.”
SLIT study participants tolerated between 10 and 20 times more peanut protein than it would take for someone to get sick.Friday Letter Submission, Publish on September 13