Local News

Science Could Minimize Effects Of Peanut Allergies, Triangle Researchers Say

Posted November 30, 2005 8:54 a.m. EST

— With peanut allergies doubling in the last 10 years, the peanut industry is funding new research to eliminate peanut allergies, or at least treat them -- and some of the research is taking place in the Triangle.

"We're trying to develop a treatment for kids and adults who have allergies," said Dr. Wesley Burks with Duke University Medical System.

Burks is working to develop treatments and even vaccines.

Research at North Carolina State University may develop a whole new peanut. Tom Isleib and his colleagues want to breed a new variety of peanut without the characteristics that cause most allergies.

"I think it can be done, but I don't think it can be done quickly," Isleib said.

Vaccines, however, are a much more likely breakthrough -- one to treat the allergy is possible within the next three to five years; one that would eliminate the risk of peanut allergies, though, is probably about 10 to 15 years away.

"It has the possibility of making the disease go away," says Burks.

Close to 3 million Americans are allergic to peanuts or tree nuts. The dramatic increase over the past decade has sparked changes, causing airlines to offer peanut-free seating and schools to have peanut-free lunch areas.

Peanut allergies can be fatal. A Canadian teenager recently died after kissing her boyfriend, who had just eaten a peanut butter snack.