A revolutionary new skin patch could offer hope to the increasing numbers of children developing a serious food allergy to peanuts.

The device, which has been developed by two leading French paediatricians, releases minute doses of peanut oil under the skin.

Dr Pierre-Henri Benhamou, one of its inventors and a senior consultant at Saint-Vincent de Paul hospital in Paris, said: "We envisage that the patch would be worn daily for several years and would slowly reduce the severity of accidental exposure to peanuts.

"The beauty of the patch is that it is absorbed just under the skin and is taken up by the immune system.

"But because it doesn't go directly into the bloodstream there is no risk of a severe reaction.

He added: "At best we are talking about a sufferer eventually being able to eat modest amounts of peanut without a reaction.

"But what we want to do most is to eliminate the severe reaction that occurs when people are exposed to the tiniest speck of peanut."

Currently, parents of children with this serious food allergy endure the constant worry that even minute amounts of exposure to the allergen could place their child's life at risk by triggering an "anaphylactic shock" - that's an inflammation of the airways, causing breathing to stop.

Children at risk of anaphylactic shock to peanuts and other allergens should carry adrenaline devices (such as EpiPens) with them at all time. However, because an anaphylactic reaction can be so unpredictable, rapid and severe, there are hundreds of deaths every year as a result of not receiving life-saving treatment in time.

Human safety trials have started in Europe and the United States and it is hoped the patch could become available within three to four years.

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