Skin Patch Increases Peanut Allergy Tolerance


Caroline Foley, Staff Writer

Allergies are widely regarded as everything from an inconvenience to the bane of existence for innumerable people, but the epidemic could soon be a thing of the past.

New breakthroughs in allergy treatment, specifically in patients severely allergic to peanuts, have come in the form of skin patches. Also called epicutaneous immunotherapy, the patches work by releasing trace amounts of peanut proteins directly onto the participant’s skin, where it diffuses and the cells subsequently build tolerance to the peanuts over time.

According to CNN, the peanut patch study was published just last week in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. The study involved 74 volunteers between the ages of 4 and 20 who all experienced varying degrees of peanut allergies. Each participant uses a daily Viaskin peanut patch in an attempt to raise their tolerance threshold to peanut exposure.

The patch has generally been regarded as successful as the results showed that participants who received higher doses of peanut protein in the patch were able to consume more peanuts after the year-long trial. At the conclusion of the trial, just under 50 percent of the volunteers given the low-dose or high-dose patch were able to tolerate eating 10 times more peanut protein than before they got the patches, the team reports in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. Only 12 percent of those wearing a placebo patch could tolerate more peanut protein, so the effects of the true patch are not coincidental.

In a statement released by the National Institutes of Health, the patch appeared to be most effective on children ages 4 to 11 and significantly less effective on older participants.

Dr. Daniel Rotrosen, a researcher with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told TODAY that giving kids oral doses of peanuts or peanut protein to try and help them develop tolerance has been less effective than the skin patches because of expected adverse reactions to direct exposure to peanuts. “Epicutaneous immunotherapy aims to engage the immune system in the skin to train the body to tolerate small amounts of allergen, whereas other recent advances have relied on an oral route that appears difficult for approximately 10 to 15 percent of children and adults to tolerate,” Rotrosen said.

Although the patch is not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration, the study shows hope for children severely affected by allergies. Additional studies in larger groups of children must be conducted before the patch is approved for wider use.