Australian researchers report that a pill to treat peanut allergy still worked four years after it was given.
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For 18 months, 24 of 48 children were given a daily probiotic that contained Lactobacillus rhamnosus and a peanut protein, the scientists reported this week in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health. The other children were given a placebo pill.
L. rhamnosus has been associated with preventing certain allergy symptoms, the researchers noted.
In the study, almost 70 percent could still eat peanuts without an allergic reaction four years after the treatment ended, the researchers said.
Half the children were eating peanuts regularly, while others were only eating them occasionally, noted lead researcher Mimi Tang, of Murdoch Children's Research Institute in Melbourne.
"The importance of this finding is that these children were able to eat peanuts like children who don't have peanut allergy, and still maintain their tolerant state, protected against reactions to peanuts," she told BBC News.
This is the first time a treatment for peanut allergy had been shown to work for so long, Tang added.
Some 250 million people worldwide are affected by food allergy, according to the researchers. Peanut allergy is considered one of the most deadly food allergies, and its prevalence has grown faster than other allergies, they said.
"This is a major step forward in identifying an effective treatment to address the food allergy problem in Western societies," Tang told the BBC. There now is "the exciting possibility that tolerance is a realistic target for treating food allergy."
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