The treatment, published Thursday in The Lancet, involves consuming increasing amounts of peanut proteins over four to six months helping the body slowly build up tolerance to peanuts.
After 6 months of oral immunotherapy, 84 to 91 percent of children, aged seven to sixteen, were able to ingest 800mg of peanuts -- the equivalent of five peanuts.
“Before treatment children and their parents would check every food label and avoiding eating out in restaurants,” said Andrew Clark, from Cambridge's Department of Medicine. “Now most of the patients in the trial can safely eat at least five whole peanuts."
In the first part of the trial, 99 children, with varying severities of the allergy, were either given the OIT treatment or asked to avoid peanuts for 26 weeks. They were tested in double-blind placebo-controlled food test, during which they were given increasing amounts of peanut protein until they experienced an allergic reaction. In the second part, the control group was offered the 26 week OIT, again followed by a food test.
After six months of therapy, 62 percent who received OIT in paste form were able to tolerate the equivalent of ten peanuts, compared with none in the control group. After the second phase, 54 percent passed the food challenge.
A fifth of those who received OIT treatment reported allergic reactions, most of which were mild.
“I felt like I had won a prize after I found out I had been picked for the active group. It meant a trip to the hospital every two weeks. A year later I could eat 5 whole peanuts with no reaction at all," said Lena Barden, a 11 year old who participated in the trial.
"But I still hate peanuts!" she added.