Local News

Duke Researchers Study Tolerance To Peanuts For Allergy Sufferers

Posted August 2, 2006 5:30 a.m. EDT

— Seven-year-old J.P. Hainline of Cary is just like other children at his YMCA soccer camp, except when it comes to snack time.

J.P. is allergic to peanuts, and, if exposed, can go into life-threatening allergic reactions.

"One time, he grabbed his throat, and I thought he was choking," said J.P.'s mother, Janie Hainline. "It's all you can do to take him to any social situation where you're not there watching continuously."

Each year, allergic reactions to peanuts cause about 15,000 emergency-room visits and result in nearly 100 adults and children dying. The number of children with a peanut allergy doubled from 1998 to 2003.

Hainline said her son's risk will be greater as he gets older and spends more time with friends away from home.

"It happens literally seconds to minutes after they ingest it," said Duke Chief of Pediatric Allergy and Immunology Dr. Wesley Burks, who is leading a five-year study to help children, like J.P., who have peanut allergies.

Burks wants to predict which children are at risk before their first reaction. By giving study participants tiny amounts of peanut protein, he is helping them build up a greater tolerance.

Researchers start the desensitization process with about 1/1000 of a peanut each day. The goal is to get them up to one whole peanut per day without a reaction. The process takes two years and the average study participant is tolerating 13 peanuts by the end of the study, Burks said.

Burks would like to cure children of the allergy, or at least make them less sensitive if they mistakenly bite into a food that contains peanut protein.

For information about Duke clinical trials related to food allergy in children and adults, call 919-668-1333 or send an e-mail to