A recent study, funded in part by the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, may offer an important clue as to why some children develop a peanut allergy and others do not. It turns out, it may have to do with a disruption in the skin barrier.
Researchers have been able to key in on the immune cells that respond to peanut protein and found that these cells carry a "marker" to show where the peanut allergen was first encountered- either through the skin or oral exposure. The results show it was the marker for skin that was associated with a peanut allergy.
This means that skin exposure may be linked to peanut allergy, while eating peanut may actually provide protection against the allergy. These results line up with the thinking in the ongoing LEAP study (Learning Early About Peanut Allergy) which is looking at whether parents should continue to be counseled to avoid giving peanuts to a child for the first three years of life.
For more information on this specific study, check out the March 2012 edition of Allergy. If you have any questions about peanut avoidance or peanut introduction, talk to your pediatrician or allergist. This exciting research may some day lead to the prevention of peanut allergy.
We'll all be celebrating then!