AL: What do these results mean for the future of how we prevent or treat peanut allergies?
DB: It may be that the timing and balance of skin and oral exposure to a particular food early in life determines whether a child develops an allergy or tolerance to that food. This study aims to prevent peanut allergy from developing in the first place, as once a child has peanut allergy there is an 80 percent chance that they will not outgrow this. There is other work assessing how to treat peanut allergy using peanut desensitization.
AL: What are the next steps for this research?
DB: In order to show that high environmental peanut levels lead to peanut allergy, a study would be required where environmental peanut levels were reduced in one group of children with eczema versus continuing as before in another group.
Related Research: A Consortium for Food Allergy Research (CoFAR) study examining the relationship between exposure to peanut in household dust and the development of peanut allergy was published in November 2014 in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. This study also finds a strong connection among household dust, eczema and the onset of peanut allergy.
While both new studies are opening the door to exciting new information about how food allergies develop, Dr. Scott Sicherer, lead investigator with the Icahn School of Medicine in New York, cautioned that more research is needed before recommendations can be made. “We need to see if early interventions, such as earlier food consumption, improving the damaged skin barrier, or reducing household exposure will counter the development of the allergy,” he said. Read more on the CoFAR study here.