(NaturalNews) Doctors from Cambridge University are testing a technique that they believe may functionally cure people who suffer from inconvenient and dangerous peanut allergies, researcher Andrew Clark announced at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Diego.
Clark and colleagues have had success in a pilot study of their technique, which involves giving children slowly increasing doses of peanut flour. They emphasized that trials are only in an early stage, however, and that people should not try the technique at home without the supervision of a doctor.
More than 1.5 million people in the United States suffer from peanut or other tree nut allergies, and the number appears to be rising. These allergies can be so severe that exposure to even trace amounts can send some sufferers into potentially fatal anaphylactic shock, in which their air passages close up and make it impossible to breathe.
In their initial study, the researchers gave 23 people suffering from peanut allergies a daily dose of peanut flour, starting at about 1 milligram and increasing a little each day. When the participants could tolerate 800 milligrams per day (equivalent to five nuts), the researchers instructed them to maintain this daily dose for another six weeks.
After a year, twenty of the participants were able to safely tolerate doses of 32 peanuts a day, meaning they no longer had to read food labels or worry about trace nut contamination in their environments. In a followup study, the researchers will now test the technique on 104 British children between the ages of seven and 17.
"This is going to be the largest trial of its kind in the world and it should give us a definitive idea of whether the approach works and whether it's safe," Clark said.
The "cure" works on a principle called desensitization, in which the body becomes used to progressively higher doses. It does not actually eliminate the allergy. If successful, however, it would provide an important technique for managing a potentially debilitating condition.