The aim of the skin patch is to educate the body so it doesnt over-react to peanut exposure.
A revolutionary skin patch that may cure thousands of deadly peanut allergy has been developed by pediatricans. Researchers believe it presents one of the best possible ways of finding an effective treatment for a life threatening reaction to peanuts.
Developed by two leading pediatricians the device releases minute doses of peanut oil under the skin.
The aim is to educate the body so it doesnt over-react to peanut exposure.
Human safety trials have started in Europe and the United States and it is hoped that the patch could become become available within 3-4 years.
One of its two French inventors, Dr Pierre-Henri Benhamou, said: We envisage that the patch would be worn daily for several years and would slowly reduce the severity of accidental exposure to peanut.
Around 500,000 children and adults run the daily risk of death from contact with peanuts.
It is caused by a faulty immune system which causes danger to the body by over-reacting to what it believes is a threat to the body.
Even the minutest amount of peanut can trigger a dangerous reaction known as anaphylactic shock which can trigger inflammation of the airways, causing breathing to stop.
Thousands of people carry injection devices known as Epi-pens that are able to deliver life saving adrenalin should they accidentally ingest peanut.
Even so around a dozen children and adults due each year from anaphylactic shock with many more surviving the experience.
Patients with allergy to peanuts are normally so allergic that routine methods used to treat other allergies, such as hay fever, are far too dangerous.
These involve minute desensitising injections of the substance causing the allergy to prevent the immune system over-reacting.
But doctors believe that even under close medical supervision such an approach would not be safe.
Dr Benhamou, a senior consultant at St Vincent de Paul Hospital in Paris, said: The beauty of the patch is that it is absorbed just under the skin and is taken up by the immune system.
But because it doesnt go directly into the bloodstream there is no risk of a severe reaction.
We have carried out a number of small safety trials and now moving to trials that will establish the size of the dose needed and for how long the patch would need to be worn. We would think maybe for three to four years.
Dr Benhamou and his colleague Professor, Christophe Dupont, believe that after about a year of wearing the patch patients may be cured of a severe life threatening reaction to peanut.
But it would need to be worn for several more years before a nut allergy sufferer could safely be exposed to peanut
Dr Benhamou said: “At best we are talking about a sufferer eventually being able to eat modest amounts of peanut without a reaction.
“But what we want to do most is to eliminate the severe reaction that occurs when people are exposed to the tiniest speck of peanut.”
The company has already established that the patch can tackle milk allergy which also affects hundreds of people.
Novelist Polly Williams son, Jago, four, is among the one child in fifty who is severely allergic to peanuts.
He is under the care of one of the top allergy units in the world at St Marys Hospital in Paddington.
His mum, from London, carries an Epi-pen at all times. Jago is severely allergic to peanut that even peanut oil on his skin can provoke a bad reaction.
A kiss from a relative who had eaten peanuts earlier the same day provoked itching skin, runny eyes and wheezing in the youngster.
Sufferers have been killed by the tiniest of exposure to nut oil that has got into food such as bread.
Professor Gideon Lack of St Mary, one of the UKs leading nut allergy experts, is advising DBV Technologies, the company developing the peanut allergy patch.
“It is a clever approach to dealing with the problem and there is a reasonable prospect of success,” he said.
“At present thousands of lives are blighted by the daily fear that accidental exposure could prove fatal. It puts an intolerable strain on families.
I”t would be fantastic if we reached the stage that previously severely allergic patients could tolerate eating peanut.
“But I reckon most parents with allergic children would just settle for knowing that exposure to small amounts of protein would no longer be life threatening.”
Professor Lack has been involved in ground-breaking trials to see if early childhood exposure to peanut, could reduce the risk.
Evidence from countries like Israel, suggest that toddlers exposed to peanuts in the first few years of life are less likely to become allergic.
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