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Peanut allergy breakthrough

Peanut allergy breakthrough

Research and trials carried out at Evelina London have shown that eating peanuts is an effective strategy to prevent food allergy, contradicting previous recommendations.  

Evidence now shows that the majority of infants at high risk of developing peanut allergy are protected from the allergy at five years old if they eat peanuts frequently, starting within the first 11 months of life.

Peanut allergy affects up to 1 in 50 school age children in the UK and its occurrence has more than doubled in the past 10 years in the UK and North America.

LEAP study on peanut allergy

The LEAP study, a randomised controlled trial, enrolled 640 children aged 4-11 months from Evelina London Children’s Hospital, who were considered at high risk of developing peanut allergy due to pre-existing severe eczema and/or egg allergy.

Half of the children were asked to eat peanut-containing foods three or more times each week, and the other half were asked to avoid eating peanuts until five years of age.

Less than 1% of the children who consumed peanuts as per the study protocol and completed the study developed peanut allergy by five years of age, while 17.3% in the avoidance group developed peanut allergy.

The overall prevalence of allergy in all children asked to consume peanuts was 3.2% versus 17.2% in the avoidance group. This represents a greater than 80% reduction in the prevalence of peanut allergy.

In total, 98% of children enrolled on the LEAP study completed the final assessment at age five years and the early introduction of peanut-containing foods was found to be safe and well tolerated – infants were not fed whole peanuts which carry a risk of choking in young children.

The study therefore concluded that early, sustained consumption of peanut is safe and associated with a substantial and significant decrease in the development of peanut allergy in high-risk infants by the age of five. Deliberate avoidance of peanut in the first year of life is consequently brought into question as a strategy to prevent allergy.

Evelina London Zip

Professor Gideon Lack is Head of Evelina London’s Allergy Service and hopes to use the new Clinical Research Facility to help prevent all food allergies occurring in children, as well as eventually other allergic diseases, such as asthma and hayfever. 

He also went down the zip wire and admits: “To be entirely honest I have a fear of heights, so I was a bit apprehensive, but also very excited about it. I was just delighted to play my part in helping to raise much-needed funds. It’s only by having a state-of-the-art, Clinical Research Facility with sufficient beds and in an environment that is favourable and friendly to children that we can help find better treatments and cures.”

Find out more about the pioneering research we do at Evelina London.