peanutsDoctors say a potential treatment for peanut allergy has "transformed the lives" of 85 children who took part in a large clinical trial.

The findings of the study, which took place at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, suggest that 84% of allergic children could eat the equivalent of five peanuts a day after six months of consuming a dose of peanut protein.

Researcher Dr Pamela Ewan said: "This large study is the first of its kind in the world to have had such a positive outcome, and is an important advance in peanut allergy research."

But she did add that further studies would be needed and that people should not try this on their own as this "should only be done by medical professionals in specialist settings".

There is currently no treatment for the most common cause of fatal allergic reactions to food so the only option for patients is to avoid them completely, leading to a lifetime of checking every food label before a meal.

Tolerate peanut protein
The trial trained children's immune systems to tolerate peanut protein by starting patients at an extremely low dose, well below the threshold for an allergic response.

The research has been broadly welcomed by other researchers in the field, but some concerns about how any therapy could be introduced have been raised.

Prof Barry Kay, from the department of allergy and clinical immunology at Imperial College London, said: "The real issues that still remain include how long the results will last, and whether the positive effects might lead affected individuals to have a false sense of security.

"Another issue to address is whether there will be long term side-effects of repeated peanut exposure even where full allergic reaction does not occur, such as inflammation of the oesophagus.

"So, this study shows encouraging results that add to the current literature, but more studies are needed to pin down these issues before the current advice to peanut allergy sufferers, which is to avoid eating peanuts, is changed."