Allergies and hay fever

Low allergy peanuts a step closer

peanut Possible new treatment for peanut allergy

Scientists are a step closer to creating low allergy peanuts, with fewer of the proteins which can trigger a deadly allergic reaction in sufferers.

Peanut allergy is one of the most common causes of food allergy in the UK. Around a quarter of a million people are thought to be allergic to them.

Eating tiny amounts of peanuts, or even coming into close contact with someone eating them can trigger the most severe type of allergic reaction known as anaphylactic shock which can be life threatening. People with peanut allergy typically carry an epipen containing adrenaline to be used in an emergency.

However, a team of US researchers examined 900 varieties of peanuts to look for naturally occurring genetic mutations linked to lower levels of proteins known to trigger allergic reactions (allergens).

These were then cross bred to produce second generation peanut seeds with significantly reduced levels of allergens. Some of the allergens were also less able to bind antibodies which are needed to mount an allergic reaction.

It would be impossible to produce an allergy free peanut as they contain too many proteins which can trigger an allergic reaction. However, the scientists say low allergy peanuts have the potential to be used as a type of "immunotherapy" which could be used to help desensitise people with peanut allergy in the future.

Lead researcher, Professor Soheila Maleki from the American Department of Agriculture said, “Through conventional breeding, we have shown it is possible to significantly reduce or eliminate more than one allergen.

"We hope this will ultimately lessen the development and the severity of the allergic response to peanuts. Future studies will involve breeding peanuts that lack major allergens, with a view to developing a peanut that significantly reduces the potential for allergy."

The findings were presented at the congress of the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology in London today.

This article was published on Tue 8 June 2010

Image © Aurélien Pottier -

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