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New Peanut Variety Developed for Allergy Treatment

New Peanut Variety Developed for Allergy Treatment Food and Beverage Business

The prevalence of peanut allergy in younger children, especially in western countries, has become a growing concern. Over the past decade, it is estimated to have doubled, affecting approximately one in 50 children in the UK. However, cases are scarce in countries like Greece.

To address this issue, researchers have conducted studies on repeated exposure to gradually increased doses of peanuts, known as oral immunotherapy (OIT). This approach aims to raise sufferers’ tolerance to peanuts and offers a potential solution, aside from completely avoiding them.

A recent study by experts from King’s College London suggests that introducing peanut products to babies between four and six months of age could reduce peanut allergy prevalence in the UK by up to 77%.

These emerging research findings have led to the development of Palforzia, the world’s only approved peanut allergy drug. Other companies, such as Mini Vini in the Netherlands, have also introduced innovative products like peanut flour for early and frequent consumption, aiming to decrease the chance of developing a peanut allergy in children.

Despite the potential benefits of OIT, there are limitations to this approach. Dr. Mona Kidon, Director of the Pediatric Allergy Clinic at the Sheba Medical Center in Israel, highlights the drawbacks and side effects associated with current allergic reaction treatments. Desensitizing treatment can lead to adverse reactions, and Palforzia, for example, has reported side effects such as abdominal cramping, vomiting, and diarrhoea. It is generally only offered to children from the age of 6-8, missing the ideal window for training the immune system before the age of four. Additionally, it requires daily intake for the rest of the patient’s life.

Dr. Kidon presents a potential solution in the form of a specialized variety of peanut called the ‘Mona peanut.’ Developed with the Volcani Institute in Israel, this peanut has reduced allergenicity when baked into cookies. Seven years of development and a completed phase 2A study have shown promising results, with dozens of children with peanut allergies successfully consuming unlimited amounts of peanuts.

The Mona peanut is produced using an unripe strain of peanut, before the allergenic proteins emerge. By denaturing these proteins, the Mona peanut behaves more like milk when heated, making it safer for allergy sufferers to consume. Dr. Kidon and her team now intend to pursue approval applications in Europe and the US.

In the phase 2A study, 32 children with severe peanut allergy consumed two Mona peanut cookies containing 300 milligrams of peanut protein daily for 40 weeks. There were no reactions in the patients. After 40 weeks, they ate 2,000 milligrams of peanut protein, resulting in only four minimal reactions. The remaining 28 patients reached a ‘level 2’ protection, meaning they were safe from accidental exposure and could include peanuts in their diet as long as they continued daily exposure.

The team’s discovery that four patients could safely eat peanuts without daily exposure (level 3 protection) six months later was even more encouraging. They hope to replicate this process with other types of nuts, such as walnuts, cashews, hazelnuts, and almonds.

In conclusion, the progress made with the Mona peanut shows promise in managing peanut allergies. As the team seeks funding for further trials and production optimization, they aim to gain approval in prominent nut allergy hotspots in northern Europe and the US. This innovation in the food and beverage industry holds the potential to revolutionize allergy treatment and improve the quality of life for peanut allergy sufferers worldwide.