Volume 96, Issue 86
Thursday, March 13, 2003

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Peanuts make comeback

By Sean Turnbull
Gazette Writer


Peanut allergy sufferers may no longer have to fear putting nuts in their mouths.

A new drug is in development that may eventually make life easier for those suffering from peanut allergies, said William Allstetter, media relations manager for the National Jewish Medical and Research Center. Doctors from the NJMRC are the ones leading the study, Allstetter explained.

"Currently [there is] no medication for peanut allergies," Allstetter said.

While there are treatments for victims following ingestion, there is nothing a peanut-allergy sufferer can take in advance to prevent an allergic reaction, Allstetter said. The new drug, an anti-IgE antibody, has performed well in the current phase of testing by both the American Food and Drug Administration and Health Canada, and will be ready to move onto the next level of testing in June, he said.

"This [drug] would stop reaction before it starts," Allstetter said, adding doctors estimate it will still be two to four years before the drug will be available to the public.

Bhagirath Singh, an immunologist at Western, said the potential drug is important because peanut allergies are the most common food allergy and are potentially fatal.

"[Peanut allergy] is very serious, especially in children," Singh said. "Clearly there is a need to find a way to prevent consequences."

Singh added peanut allergies are especially formidable to live with because it is difficult to know which foods contain the nut due to poor or improper labelling. Singh said it is very hard not to eat or come into contact with peanuts in Canadian foods.

The Student Emergency Response Team on campus has responded to several cases of peanut allergies, however, specific numbers are not available, said Bob Paskewich, external communications director for SERT. According to Paskewich, the allergic reactions ranged from mild to severe.

"Currently, SERT's protocol in dealing with peanut allergies is to provide patients with any care we can," Paskewich said, adding SERT can administer oxygen therapy, perform assisted ventilations and reduce any swelling with ice.

If the case is severe, Emergency Medical Services will be contacted and medication or hospitalization may be required, Paskewich said.

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