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New peanut allergy treatment on the horizon

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) - A treatment for those with peanut allergies is now on the horizon.

A new study of an experimental treatment indicates a California company may have come up with a way to help children build tolerance to peanuts through an allergy therapy drug.

Experts say close to two million children in the U.S. are allergic to peanuts.

Those who are allegoric know to stay away from things like raw peanuts, or peanut butter, but sometimes the peanut danger is hidden.

You have to closely look at the labels of products and sometimes you'll find a notice like this one CBS North Carolina spotted on a box of milk chocolate candy bars.

It says: "the product is manufactured in a facility which also processes peanuts and other tree nuts."

That kind of exposure is called cross contact, and for those who are allergic, situations like that can make it difficult to avoid peanuts.

And many foods also use peanut oil in one way or another.

"You don't know how many things it's actually in, and it's (peanut oil) in a lot of things," said 12-year-old Aidan Robertson, who is allergic to peanuts.

Robertson is someone the new therapy developed by California based Aimmune Therapeutics would be aimed at.

The company has applied for fast track FDA approval for its therapy hoping to have it OK'd by the end of the year following a lengthy study.

In its study, which was published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice Aimmune explained how it gave increasingly larger doses of peanut protein powder sprinkled over food to 499 children aged 4 to 17.

At the end of six months, it claims 67 percent of the patients were able to tolerate the equivalent of roughly two peanuts which is enough to avoid a potentially deadly reaction to a small accidental exposure.

A word of warning: this is NOT something you should try to replicate with peanuts at home. That's foolhardy and dangerous.

Dr. Jonathan Tam is the medical director at Gores Family Allergy Center at Children's Hospital in Los Angeles and he helped to recruit children for the study.

Tam told CBS News, "It's not going to be for everybody but for certain families that are very anxious about accidental exposures. This is a great therapy for them.

The pediatric allergy specialist also said there were hazards that occurred to subjects who took part in the carefully monitored study.

"There are some risks when taking the drug,'' he said. "It can cause a reaction to peanuts," and result in things like "stomach pains, or mouth itching."

"Up to 19 percent of the kids had to drop out from the study because of these side effects," Tam said.

The drug is not a cure for peanut allergies, but rather way to protect people from having a potentially fatal reaction.

The company says in a statement it, "intends to achieve meaningful levels of protection by desensitizing patients with defined, precise amounts of key allergens."

If approved by the FDA, the treatment will be expensive.

The company estimates it'll cost between $5,000 to $10,000 for the first 6 months of treatments and about $400 dollars a month after that.

To learn more about food allergies, check out this online resource guide by F.A.R.E, a national food allergy advocacy organization.


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