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Prevent Peanut Allergies – Start Early!

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Landmark study presented at AAAAI Annual Meeting paves way for food allergy prevention.

The first ever published data from the highly anticipated Learning Early About Peanut (LEAP) study offers proof that early introduction of peanuts may offer protection from the development of peanut allergies. The study was led by Professor Gideon Lack at King’s College London.

Lack and the LEAP study team randomly assigned 640 infants with severe eczema, egg allergy, or both, to either consume or avoid peanuts until 60 months of age. Additional clusters were identified in the cohort: children with sensitivity to peanut extract and children without sensitivity (as determined by skin prick tests).

Remarkably, the overall prevalence of peanut allergy in the peanut-avoidance group was 17.2% compared to only 3.2% in the consumption group. The prevalence of peanut allergies in children with negative skin prick tests early in life was at 13.7% in the avoidance group and 1.9% in the consumption group. Similarly, children already sensitive to peanuts reflected a 35.3% prevalence of peanut allergy in the avoidance group, compared to only 10.6% in the consumption group.

“Early consumption is effective not only in high-risk infants who show no sensitivity to peanuts early on, but it is also effective in infants who already demonstrate peanut sensitivity,” first author George DuToit, MB, BCh, also from Kings College London explained.

Overall the LEAP study demonstrated that the early introduction of peanut dramatically decreased the risk of developing a peanut allergy by 70-80% in the selected patient population.

Although the results are very exciting, several questions remain to be answered before firm guidelines can be developed addressing optimal timing of introduction of foods to infants. The study needs to be reproduced in additional patient populations to see whether this reduction in risk of developing peanut allergies also applies to children who have lower risk of developing allergies. It also needs to be determined if this could apply to other common food allergens such as eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, etc. Additionally it remains to be determined if there is an ideal timeframe in which to introduce these foods.

For now if a parent has concerns about their child’s specific risk and recommended course of action, they should speak to an allergist at Charleston Allergy & Asthma to discuss this further. We have a protocol at Charleston Allergy & Asthma based on the LEAP study to evaluate infants for possible peanut allergy and which can help to safely introduce peanut products into the diets of appropriate at risk infants.

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