With legislators across the world currently discussing the issue of food allergens and labelling, scientists are busy in the labs investigating solutions to this increasing health problem. But new research released this week could bring real hope to sufferers of this life-threatening allergy.
Scientists report that the TNX-90 drug significantly boosted patient sensitivity from half a peanut to almost nine peanuts - this increase in threshold could be enough to protect against most allergic reactions due to unintended ingestion of peanuts.
The success of the clinical trials of TNX-90 - discussed at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology - promised to ease the fears of those with a life-threatening peanut allergy, who must be vigilant about reading labels.
The experimental treatment involved monthly injections of TNX-90 and successfully muted the severe reactions of people who risk death if they ingest the slightest amount of peanut protein, according to the study authors from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine.
The treatment allowed volunteers, who would normally develop symptoms after consuming a single peanut, to eat an average of eight peanuts before experiencing nausea, pain, vomiting, hives, throat tightness or other symptoms. Because the shots block the chemical pathway responsible for other types of food allergies, the treatment may help people allergic to eggs, cats, dogs, and other types of nuts, according to the study.
The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN), an advocacy group that promotes awareness on food allergies, welcomed the news. "Constant stress and fear of accidentally eating or coming into contact with peanuts comes with the territory of living day to day with this disorder," said Anne Munoz-Furlong, founder and CEO of FAAN. "The added threshold buffer provided by the drug will give a peace of mind that children and adults with peanut allergy have never known before," she said.
But on the negative side, FAAN highlighted the fact that this clinical study has been halted due to a legal dispute between pharmaceutical companies jointly developing anti-IgE technology. Apparently this may bring a halt to further progress on TNX-901, which had already received fast track status from the FDA and was about to enter Phase 3 trials.
Patients participating in the clinical testing have been told they will receive the drug only until 1 July, unless Tanox, Genentech and Norvartis can reach an agreement over development rights for the treatment.
Full findings of the study are published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine.