Peanut allergy study showing promising treatment results

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WTVD) -- A new study that's wrapping up at UNC Children's Hospital is showing promising signs for protecting children with peanut allergies from getting any worse, -- if not reversing their symptoms altogether.

It involves 40 children, including 6-year-old Brayden Bailor.

He and his family have been travelling back and forth from outside of Charlotte for 3-and-a-half years to take part in the study.

Bailor's involvement began shortly after he suffered an allergic reaction to peanuts when he was just 15-months-old.

"He was offered a peanut butter cracker and he pushed it away," his mom, Karrie Bailor said. "We didn't think anything about it, and the next thing we know he was rubbing his eyes, his eyes were swollen, he broke out in hives and was all red."

There was no family history of food allergies, so they were caught off-guard and were worried about what this meant for their young son.

"You worry about everywhere he goes, everything he eats, and people he comes in contact with," Karrie Bailor said.

However, now, UNC's study could bring him hope for a more normal future.

"We take children like Brayden who are essentially toddlers - preschoolers - young children who are newly diagnosed," Dr. Brian Vickery said. "We start the treatment off at a very, very low dose, tiny amounts of peanut, then gradually build it up over time."

As the Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Dr. Vickery is personally overseeing the study and says while it's similar to others that have already been done elsewhere; this trial specifically targets a younger age group.

"We have targeted that population because we believe this therapy may be most effective when we start treatment immediately after they have their first reaction and are diagnosed," he says.

As for how it works, the small amounts of peanut flour are mixed into food at home on a daily basis.

Then, when the children come in to the hospital for testing those doses are almost doubled and the children are monitored to see if they show any reaction.

They actually go through two trials, one with a placebo, and one with the actual peanut flour. So, as their results are monitored neither the families nor the staff know which is which till after the tests are complete.

Bailor still has one more test to go next month to see whether this approach has worked. And while his family and Dr. Vickery don't know his exact results yet, early indications from other patients make his outlook promising.

"What we've seen is that 80 percent of those kids have done well and have been able to put peanut in their diet," Dr. Vickery said. "That's higher than what we've seen in other studies of this approach, and again we think that's because we're targeting these younger children who are both more amenable to therapy and may have immune responses that are less well developed and are maybe easier to correct."

And that could prompt the medical field to change the way it treats peanut allergies, especially in young patients, although Dr. Vickery said more studies will need to be done. Still, it's very exciting for him and his patients, including the Bailors.

"Long term, we're hoping for him to not have to worry about it in the future," Karrie Bailor said. "He's at the tail end of this study, so we're hoping after today and our last visit he'll be able to eat peanut."

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