Home' Southern Health News : October 2015 Contents For the past four years, FMC paediatric allergist Dr
Billy Tao has been developing a novel two-step
desensitisation process. The first step involves
boiling peanuts for an extended length of time to
make them less allergenic.
The boiled peanuts are given to patients to
partially desensitise them, and then once the
patient shows no signs of allergic reaction,
roasted peanuts are given to the children to
increase their tolerance in the second step of the
Dr Tao said the low-cost and effective two-step
process resulted in less adverse events than
previously used single-step desensitisation
methods – also known as oral immunotherapy.
New treatment to overcome
peanut allergies in children
BY JANE TREMBATH
A new Flinders Medical Centre (FMC) study is successfully helping children to
overcome peanut allergies by exposing them to peanuts and desensitising them to
Among those who have
already undergone Dr
Tao’s new desensitisation
method is 16-year-old
who was diagnosed with
a severe peanut allergy
at the age of three.
“With traditional methods, a lot of people
ingesting increasing amounts of roasted peanut
flour or similar products start to react – so much
so that many have to drop out and can’t finish
the treatment,” Dr Tao said.
The FMC trial is carried out over a year or longer
and includes patients aged between 10 and 15
years. Of the 14 participants, 10 have already
completed the first step and are now eating
varying amounts of roasted peanuts, while
four continue to eat boiled peanuts and are
“One patient who had to be administered three
adrenaline injections after consuming peanuts
is now eating several roasted peanuts every day
without problems,” Dr Tao said.
About three per cent of Australian children
have a peanut allergy, and most will carry this
into adulthood with only about 20 per cent
outgrowing the allergy.
Allergy symptoms can vary from very mild
(including tingling mouth, puffy lips and welts
around the mouth) to moderate symptoms (facial
swelling, body rash, runny nose and red eyes,
abdominal pains and vomiting); while severe
reactions include trouble breathing, looking pale
and unwell, and anaphylaxis. Very occasionally
death may result from a most severe reaction.
Dr Tao’s idea for hypo-allergenic (less allergenic)
nuts to be consumed first was based on an
observation by German researcher Professor
Kirsten Beyer, who in 2001 noted that peanut
allergies were less prevalent in China than the
western world because the Chinese ate boiled
peanuts rather than peanut butter or roasted
peanuts. She found that boiling peanuts for 20
minutes made them less allergenic than roasted
Dr Tao said that a partnership with Dr Tim
Chataway, Head of the Flinders Proteomics
Facility, and Professor Kevin Forsyth from
the FMC Paediatrics Department, proved that
peanuts boiled for at least two hours were less
allergenic and the pair designed a study using this
Dr Tao hopes his research could one day be
carried out in a doctor’s clinic and then at home
and avoid the need for hospital-based treatment.
However he strongly warned people against ‘do-
it-yourself’ desensitisation at home and stressed
that patients should be seen by an allergist and
individual care plans developed.
Among those who have already undergone Dr
Tao’s new desensitisation method is 16-year-old
Shehan Nanayakkara, who was diagnosed with
a severe peanut allergy at the age of three.
“We first realised Shehan had an allergy when
friends gave him a peanut butter sandwich and
he had to be rushed to hospital...there have been
many accidents since then,” father Asanka said.
“During one round of allergy testing he ended up
in the Intensive Care Unit – that time I thought I’d
“I approached Dr Tao to help and at first Shehan
ate boiled peanuts, working his way up to
consuming 13 a day, and now he eats five normal
roasted peanuts daily, mixed in with his meals.
“It’s been a big relief because children and
teenagers don’t care too much about what they
eat and just eat whatever, and there has always
been that worry that something might happen –
now we can relax a bit because Shehan has some
SOUTHERN HEALTH NEWS / OCTOBER 2015 / 7
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