Peanut-allergy sufferers may soon be able to eat a PB and J sandwich and a host of other foods containing peanut particles without fear of an attack.
A team of researchers in the United States is working on breeding peanuts that are “low allergy” by mixing different varieties together and in the process eliminating or reducing proteins blamed for the often-severe reactions, BBC News reported.
Allergies to peanuts are fairly common and typically cause breathing problems in people who have them. But at their worst, they can be fatal, causing anaphylactic shock — a severe allergic reaction that causes the respiratory system and other bodily functions to shut down. As a result, those with peanut allergies frequently have to be hyper-vigilant about what they eat.
The lower-allergy peanuts are being produced with the help of funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and are still in the earliest stages of development, according to BBC News. Researchers say they aren’t genetically modified but instead are being created using traditional cross-breeding methods.
At issue is whether peanuts without the allergy-causing proteins will be able to spawn seeds that are also missing the proteins and have the same low-allergy characteristics.
“They’re not there yet, but it’s exciting whenever we have an opportunity to reduce the allergic potential of a peanut, which can kill hundreds and hundreds of children and adults each year,” Dr. Cliff Bassett, the medical director of Allergy & Asthma Care of New York, told AOL Health. “It happens to be one of the more life-threatening foods.”
About 1 percent of schoolchildren in the U.S. and the U.K. are allergic to peanuts, according to the USDA.
If the project is successful, the risk that bits of peanuts and nuts will wind up in other foods produced on assembly lines might also be reduced.
Professor Soheila Maleki presented the findings to a conference held in London by the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
“People that are already allergic would need to have a much higher dose before they suffered a reaction,” the BBC quoted Maleki as saying. “In the case of accidental ingestion, there would be much less of a reaction.”
He also theorized that children who eat the low-allergy peanuts, which could be on the market in 2-5 years, would be less likely to develop allergies to all kinds of peanuts.
Clinical trials done last year in Cambridge, England, seemed to cure the children participating of peanut allergies by administering small amounts of peanuts to them over time, much in the way some vaccines can prevent various diseases.
Maleki said the hope is that the new peanuts will be able to be used for similar purposes, “desensitizing” people with peanut allergies.
In the meantime, educating children and adults about “the hazards of accidental exposure to peanuts and peanuts in other foods” is crucial, according to Bassett. Those with peanut and other potentially deadly allergies should carry an epi-pen in case of anaphylaxia and understand how to avoid problematic ingredients when they’re eating out.
“The peanut is not going away any time soon,” Bassett said. “That next bite could be lethal.”
Original Article on AOL Health
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