American scientists are edging closer and closer to the development of a vaccine that will prevent allergic reactions to peanuts.
Peanut allergies are incredibly common in Australia, especially among children. This vaccine is welcome news to peanut allergy sufferers, as an allergic reaction can prove to be fatal.
One in 20 Australian children have a food allergy. In the 10 years prior to 2016, hospital admissions for severe allergic reactions doubled.
The vaccine is being developed to change how immune cells react to allergies.
The new vaccine has been successfully trialled on laboratory mice. The vaccine was administered to the mice via their nose and resulted in the mice having no obvious reactions to allergens for two weeks.
The trial revealed the allergy was suppressed rather than just being soothed.
Lead researcher Dr Jessica O’Konek said that redirecting the body’s responses to allergens prevents them from reacting.
Dr O’Konek said: “Our goal is to use immunotherapy to change the immune system’s response by developing a therapeutic vaccine for food allergies.”
“By redirecting the immune responses, our vaccine not only suppresses the response but prevents the activation of cells that would initiate allergic reactions.”
What causes food allergies?
“Food allergies are caused by a faulty immune reaction, wherein the body overproduces antibodies called Immunoglobulin E (IgE),” Dr O’Konek said.
“This occurs as a result of a skewed immune response from immune cells called T helper 2 (Th2).”
According to our team, allergies are not hereditary, and scientists are puzzled why allergens manifest in some people but remain inactive in others. Researchers and doctors believe there are no real causes for developing an allergy.
Dr Cosby Stone of Vanderbilt University Medical Centre said: “The one that’s really hard to explain is a food allergy where you used to tolerate shellfish or nuts but then suddenly don’t.”
“Being an allergic person can put you at higher risk of developing a new allergy: 15 per cent of food allergies have an adult onset.”
As we get older, the human body’s immune system becomes stronger and develops a tolerance for less severe allergic ‘triggers’. Only 2 in 100 adults have an allergy, rather than the 1 in 20 as children.
Allergies developed in adulthood are more likely to become permanent. Children’s reactions to milk, wheat and eggs are likely to be outgrown by the time they reach adulthood.
Currently, the default strategy for allergy sufferers is to be extra cautious to prevent coming into contact with their allergen triggers.
This new vaccine is an innovative step towards immunity for those with peanut allergies.