The rate of childhood peanut allergies from birth to 18 years old is three to four times higher compared to 20 years ago. Those with a severe allergy can be sent into anaphylaxis just by smelling the legume. This can be especially problematic for those with allergies in Israel, as the country does not have standardized regulations that require uniform labeling of allergens on food packaging. But Technion alumna Dr. Mona Kidon may have a solution to this issue. She has created an immunotherapy that permits young peanut allergy sufferers to build up immunity to peanuts until they can ultimately eat them without adverse effects.
Dr. Kidon’s “Mona Peanut Allergy” cookies are an oral immunotherapy treatment that slowly introduce a child with a peanut allergy to the allergen so that they can build up immunity against it gradually. Her cookies are unique in that they use a proprietary recipe calling for a peanut whose protein is not recognized by the body as the allergen, yet still teaches the immune system to be less allergic over time.
Along with Dr. Ran Hovav of the Volcani Institute – Agricultural Research Institute, Dr. Kidon developed this special peanut over seven years and tested its efficacy through skin tests. The cookies can be used even with patients who are extremely allergic to peanuts. In fact, this peanut protein can be ingested at a rate of 10 times the amount that would normally instigate a reaction without negative side effects. Over time, patients can begin to eat regular peanuts without garnering an allergic reaction.
The cookies have now completed phase 2 clinical studies with more than 30 children eating regular peanuts in large amounts. As long as the child continues to eat regular peanuts daily, they can maintain their non-allergic status. Going forward, Dr. Kidon hopes the patients can maintain their immunity without the need for eating peanuts so often. She hopes to find a way to standardize production of her cookies so she can submit an investigational drug application to the FDA for approval.
Dr. Kidon is the director of the Pediatric Allergy Clinic at Safra Children’s Hospital, Sheba Medical Center and is a specialist in pediatric allergy and asthma. She also has immunotherapy cookies in the works for those with allergies to sesame, egg, and milk.
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