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Peanut allergy trial at Arkansas Children's shows hopeful results for kids

"The younger the kid, the lower the peanut allergy antibody, the better the impact and we are really excited about that finding," Dr. Stacie Jones said.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A breakthrough moment for the thousands of kids in our state that struggle with peanut allergies. 

The results of a trial, taking place right in our backyard by Arkansas Children's Research Institute, were released in the medical journal, "The Lancet," on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022.

Researchers at Arkansas Children's, and four other medical centers across the country, have been working on this study since 2013. 

The findings are not only exciting to the doctors in charge of it all, but to the impacted families whose lives are now changed forever.

"It makes it easier and less stressful for him to be able to go somewhere and just not have to worry about that," Kathryn Irby, mother of a trial participant, said. 

Irby described it as a 'relief,' knowing the days of closely reading food ingredient labels and worrying about what's in a meal at a restaurant, may be behind her and her son, Jeb.

"We found out he had a peanut allergy right around his first birthday," she said.

It was only a year later when the Irby family met with Dr. Stacie Jones at Arkansas Children's, and decided to take part in a nationwide peanut allergy trial.

"By that point, his older brother had outgrown his peanut allergy, which we were thankful for and we saw how that kind of opened the world up and we wanted to try to do everything we could to give Jeb the same opportunity," Kathryn said.

Jeb was one of nearly 150 children, ages 1 to 3-years-old, that received the peanut immunotherapy, a daily dose of peanut protein flour for two and a half years. 

As his tolerance grew, so did the amount of flour he was able to eat, and Dr. Jones said, he wasn't the only one.

"Overall, about 20% of the kids could reach this remission, in point, where they could consume 16 peanuts, after six months of discontinuing their therapy," she said.

According to Dr. Jones, that percentage was even higher at nearly 70%, for the one-year-olds studied.

"The younger the kid, the lower the peanut allergy antibody, the better the impact and we are really excited about that finding," she said.

It's a breakthrough that has already changed Jeb's daily life.

"Well, I just like a spoonful of peanut butter every morning," he said.

Thanks to Jeb, and the other kids in the study, Dr. Jones said it could change the lives of many more.

"If we didn't have that we can never advance the science in the field and so that's really powerful for us. It's really inspiring," she said.

According to Kathryn, Jeb has to make sure he continues to eat peanuts daily, so his body can keep tolerating it. 

Dr. Jones said more work needs to be done, in the really young kids, to be able to know the best and safest way to move forward with these findings.

She also added Arkansas Children's is doing trials for other food allergies and if you want to learn more, or participate, you can call the food allergy program at 501-364-3031.