Around 1 in 100 people in the UK are allergic to peanuts.
Research has shown that peanut allergy among children increased significantly during the 1990s.
Peanut patch or placebo
The latest study, published in JAMA, reports on a phase II trial involving 221 people aged between 6 and 55 from North America and Europe who had a proven allergy to peanuts.
This broke down to 113 children aged 6 to 11, 73 adolescents aged 12 to 17, and 35 adults aged 18 to 55.
Participants were assigned to either use a peanut patch containing 3 different strengths of peanut protein, or a lookalike dummy patch for 12 months.
During the first week, patches were applied for just 3 hours each day, building up to 6 hours in the second week, and 12 hours in the third week. From the fourth week, participants wore a patch for 24 hours, swapping to a new one each day.
Skin prick tests and blood tests were carried out at 3, 6 and 12 months.
Higher dose patch
The researchers found no difference in peanut sensitivity between those who wore a patch containing 100 μg of peanut protein – the medium dosage trialled – and those with a dummy patch.
However, twice the number of people using the 250 μg showed decreased signs of peanut sensitivity as those wearing the placebo.
The researchers report that localised skin reactions were the most common adverse event. Allergic reactions were mostly mild to moderate in severity and lasted less than 3 months in half of those treated.
Patients who completed the trial took part in a 2-year extension using the most effective 250 μg dose peanut patch dose to assess its effectiveness.
All the participants in the extension part of the trial underwent a food challenge at 12 and 24 months.
The authors say the findings support moving to a phase III trial.
'A step forward'
Commenting on the study in an emailed statement, Holly Shaw, nurse advisor for Allergy UK, says: "This clinical trial contributes towards a growing body of preliminary research into epicutaneous immunotherapy for treating peanut allergy and is one step further towards developing a much needed safe and effective treatment to address the increasing prevalence of food allergy."
She adds that, "for those living with peanut allergy on a day to day basis, having hope of one day being free from this burden would be life changing".
To provide even greater transparency and choice, we are working on a number of other cookie-related enhancements. More information