AAIR Trustee Professor Graham Roberts is part of a team of researchers who have found that introducing peanut into an infant’s diet within the first 11 months of life can prevent peanut allergy in those at high risk.
The Learning Early About Peanut Allergy (LEAP) study, based at King’s College London, is the first to show consumption is an effective strategy to prevent food allergy.
Peanut allergy, which affects one in 50 school age children in the UK, has more than doubled in the UK and North America over the past 10 years and is one of the most common food allergies. It develops early in life and can cause a severe and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction in sufferers which is known as anaphylaxis. The allergy is rarely outgrown and there is currently no cure available within the NHS.
The LEAP study enrolled 640 children aged four to 11 months who were considered at high risk of developing peanut allergy due to pre-existing severe eczema and/or egg allergy, with half asked to eat peanut-containing foods three or more times a week and the other half to avoid eating peanut until five years of age.
The results, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed less than 1 per cent of children who consumed peanut and completed the study developed peanut allergy by five years of age compared to 17.3 per cent in the avoidance group.
Professor Roberts, who is also a consultant in paediatric allergy and respiratory medicine at Southampton Children’s Hospital. His team is currently re-assessing the Hampshire PIFA birth cohort aiming to understand which older children develop food allergies and asthma. The study is part of the European-wide Integrated Approaches to Food Allergen and Allergy Risk Management (iFAAM) research project. Further information can be found at www.southampton.ac.uk/ifaam.