Relief in sight for those with peanut allergies after UNC study

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WTVD) -- There's new hope for many families and their children dealing with peanut allergies.

"I didn't want to even try peanut butter," said Michael Allen, who is 10 years old.

He lives in Apex and has battled a peanut allergy his whole life.

"I didn't get really feel like I wanted to go near someone if they did have peanuts or if they were just talking about peanuts," he said. "It would make me a little grossed out," he said.

After repeat visits to the allergist through the years, his mom eventually found out about a clinical trial at UNC.

"The study starts with literally a 1,000th of a peanut and they build up with a daily dose of powder mixed in the food," said Dr. Wesley Burks, executive dean of UNC School of Medicine, who helped bring the study with him from Duke University. "After about two months of treatment, they're able to tolerate about a peanut every day."

By the end of the study, they found positive results.

"Two-thirds of the kids treated the way I described could tolerate eating two peanuts without significant symptoms," said Dr. Burks. "It doesn't sound like a lot but when most react with pretty significant symptoms to a third of a peanut, this is a comfort level that really changes a family's life."

Cathy remembers her son's reaction to a peanut butter cracker when he was one.

"We avoided peanuts at all costs -- everything was no peanuts everywhere," Cathy Allen said. "We didn't have them in the house, we didn't have them at school -- we managed to avoid peanuts for seven years."

At the end of the study, Michael was able to tolerate seven peanuts.

"It's life changing to think about every day -- to think he's going to be okay," Cathy said. "He knows, he's confident he's going to be OK."

Dr Burks said about 500 children worldwide have been treated but he says the treatment doesn't work for everyone.

This was the last study done before they can seek FDA approval for the powder -- usually, that's an 18-month process before doctors would be able to prescribe this.
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