Australian researchers have reported a major breakthrough in the relief of deadly peanut allergy with the discovery of a long-lasting treatment they say offers hope that a cure will soon be possible.
In clinical trials conducted by the scientists at Melbourne's Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, children with peanut allergies were given a probiotic along with small doses of a peanut protein over an 18-month period.
When the experiment ended in 2013, some 80 per cent of the kids were able to tolerate peanuts.
The research, published last Wed- nesday in medical journal The Lancet, found that four years on, about 70 per cent could still eat pea- nuts without an adverse reaction.
"The importance of this finding is that these children were able to eat peanuts like those who don't have peanut allergy and still maintain their tolerant state," said Professor Mimi Tang, the lead researcher.
"This suggests our treatment is effective at inducing long-term tolerance up to four years after completing treatment and is safe. It also suggests that tolerance is a realistic target for treating the food allergy."
Food allergy affects one in 20 children and about two in 100 adults, with seafood, cow's milk, eggs and peanuts among the triggers.
Peanuts are one of the most common foods to cause anaphylaxis, a potentially fatal allergic reaction.
The researchers said this study provides the "strongest evidence yet that a cure may be possible for peanut allergy".
Fifty-six children completed the study, with half getting a placebo and half getting the treatment.
Researchers are aiming to confirm the results with a larger study of the treatment they say "holds important implications for attacking the modern food allergy epidemic".