Accidental exposure to peanuts can be a serious, and sometimes deadly, problem for children with severe peanut allergies. One of the biggest, and first, studies of accident exposure to peanut allergies is underway at the University of South Florida, and so far is having promising outcomes. The global study is now recruiting more patients for the next round of testing.
One of the current participants is 12-year-old Madison Sheriff. She had a severe allergic reaction to peanut butter when she was a baby. Today, she always carries an EpiPen, in case she’s exposed to peanuts.
“I swell up, I puff up, I throw up. I do a lot of ups,” says Madison.
The 7th grader is one of approximately 500 people in the world participating in the study, that exposes severely allergic people to tiny amounts of peanut, mixed with food, and provides an experimental daily treatment to reduce reactions, as the exposure to peanut is slowly increased. The treatment aims to make patients able to tolerate up to four peanuts, and is not meant to be a cure for allergies.
Dr. Thomas B Casale, the Principal Investigator on the study at the University of South Florida, explains that the immunotherapy treatments are targeted to patients who are at risk for accident exposure.
“The treatment seems to protest you for a bit higher level, perhaps the equivalent of two to four peanuts, as opposed to just one,” says Dr. Casale. “That will prevent most of the accidental-exposure-induced anaphylactic or allergic reactions.”
As participants in one of the earlier phases of the trial, Madison and her Mother, Yvette, have spent hours in the University of South Florida Asthma, Allergy, and Immunology clinical research unit in Tampa, passing time playing cards and watching television while she’s gradually exposed to higher levels of peanut and monitored for reactions. They drive from Riverview, sometimes arriving at 6 A.M. so that Madison can undergo treatment before school. Yvette says she…