food allergy

What is Peanut Desensitization or Oral Immunotherapy?

“Peanut desensitization or Oral Immunotherapy (OIT) protocols have been around for several years”, says Dr. Daniel F. Soteres, MD of Colorado Springs.  “I’ve been doing these protocols for at least 4 years.  It’s very fulfilling.  I remember our first patient, Luke.  One of the happiest moments was when I wrote a letter saying that he no longer had to sit at the ‘peanut-free table’ at school.  He was in 4th grade at that time.  He gave me one of those smiles that is a reminder of why I love my job.”  Luke is in junior high now.  As part of this protocol he eats several peanuts twice a day, every day.  It took a couple of months to build up his tolerance to peanuts, but he has done well since.”

The first successful studies for peanut desensitization protocols came out of North Carolina with Dr. Wesley Burkes.  Now the studies are being replicated all over the world.  Recently a group of physicians published an article in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology reporting their experience with “Oral Immunotherapy for Peanut Allergy”.  They report that 85% of patients (n=352) achieved the target dose of peanut.  From a total of 352 patients and 240,351 doses there were 95 reactions that required epinephrine.  Most of the reactions occurred during a period of close observation after the dose was given.

More news has been reported in the Los Angeles Times and the Wall Street Journal, “Kids with Peanut Allergies Get Some Relief, Study Finds”.  The articles focus on a publication in The Lancet out of the United Kingdom.  This study included 99 children, age 7-16.  For half of the kids they gave an escalating dose of peanut protein during a 26 week period.  The other kids were placed in the control group and continued to avoid peanuts.  Most adverse reactions were mild like oral itching which was the most common.  After 6 months, 80% of the kids could tolerate up to 5 peanuts per day and 62% of the kids could tolerate up to 10 peanuts per day.

What are the risks?

“The most common side effects include oral itching during the build-up phase and abdominal pain.  Of course there is a risk of more severe reactions and we have seen that in a few patients.  No deaths were reported in either of these publications, but you are feeding an allergic child their allergen.  So, this is a risk.”

What are the long-term results?

“The long term efficacy of Oral Immunotherapy for food allergies is unproven. In fact in some studies when the daily peanut dose is stopped, up to 80% of patients return to being allergic to peanuts. So, if you decide to do OIT for peanut allergy then understand that the plan is to continue the protocol for a long time.”

At Asthma & Allergy Associates in Colorado Springs, Dr. Daniel F. Soteres has performed Oral Immunotherapy or Peanut Desensitization, a form of peanut allergy treament, in many children and one adult from our offices in Colorado Springs, Pueblo, and Canyon City.

If  you want to learn more about peanut allergy treatment then call for a consultation with our allergy doctors now.