The Scottish Mail on Sunday

New jab could cure nut allergy

- By Stephen Adams MEDICAL EDITOR

CHILDREN with a potentiall­y fatal allergy to peanuts could soon be protected by a vaccine being developed by a British company.

More than 500,000 people in the UK are allergic to peanuts. Of those, about 300,000 are children – representi­ng roughly one child in 50 – and rates are rising sharply.

Now Allergy Therapeuti­cs, of Worthing, West Sussex, is to begin testing a vaccine in humans this summer after successful trials with mice. The vaccine works by making certain allergens in peanut appear more like an invading virus to the immune system, which then creates antibodies that enable the body to better avert an allergic reaction.

An experiment­al treatment called desensitis­ation therapy is already in developmen­t.

This involves giving a sufferer tiny doses of peanut so they build up a tolerance, but it can take many years to become effective.

The vaccine trials in mice were led by Martin Bachmann, professor of vaccinolog­y at Oxford University’s Jenner Institute. He said: ‘This study indicates a paradigm shift and provides strong proof of concept for such a vaccine.’

Prof Bachmann, whose findings have been published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, believes three initial jabs followed by ‘maintenanc­e’ injections every six to 12 months could be required. ‘In mice, one or two injections was enough to completely desensitis­e them

[to peanuts].

‘We hope to get something along those lines in humans,’ he said, adding that the same approach might combat other allergies such as hay fever.

Amena Warner of the charity Allergy UK said: ‘For those with peanut allergy, the hope of one day being free from this burden would be life-changing.’

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