News and Views

INFANT Centre research leads to breakthrough treatment for peanut allergy

19 Nov 2018
Principal Investigator at the INFANT Centre, Professor of Paediatrics and Child Health at University College Cork, Jonathan Hourihane with a new oral immunotherapy. Photo: Diane Cusack

New England Journal of Medicine Publishes Oral Immunotherapy for Peanut Allergy co-authored by Prof. Jonathan Hourihane of INFANT Centre, UCC.

The world’s largest peanut allergy treatment trial, involving more than 30 Irish children, has found that a new oral treatment can successfully reduce sensitivity to peanuts. It offers a real lifeline to those affected by the most common food allergy and the single cause of most food allergy deaths.

Through his work as Principal Investigator at the INFANT Centre, Professor of Paediatrics and Child Health at University College Cork, Jonathan Hourihane has been leading the revolutionary immunotherapy trial in Ireland, which has shown that more than two thirds (67%) of those on the treatment could tolerate peanuts after the trial. This tolerance gives peanut allergy sufferers real safety and the ability to cope with accidental exposure in the community. 

“Up to now, without any treatment available, peanut allergy has put children and adults at risk of unpredictable and occasionally life-threatening reactions. The AR101 immunotherapy is a real breakthrough for those affected by peanut allergy.  It works by introducing initially minute controlled amounts of peanut protein, with escalation over a sustained period of 6 to 12 months, building up a patient’s tolerance to peanut. We have seen patients go from being highly allergic to very small doses, like one tenth of a peanut, to being able to manage to eat the equivalent of 2 or 3 peanuts without a significant reaction. This is a game changer for anyone living with this allergy,” said Prof. Hourihane of the INFANT Centre.  

This industry-sponsored research and clinical trial has resulted in the publication of Prof. Hourihane’s co-authored paper in the world’s leading medical journal, The New England Journal of Medicine this week. 

INFANT Director Geraldine Boylan said, “This is an example of the excellent, world leading clinical research ongoing at the INFANT centre at UCC, which is making a huge difference to lives of children and their families, not just in Ireland but all over the world. We are delighted to be a significant player in bringing this new therapy to fruition and acknowledge the incredible work of our INFANT allergy research team, and particularly the incredible work of our colleague, Prof. Jonathan Hourihane.” 

UCC President Patrick O’Shea said, “We applaud the development of a new immunotherapy for peanut allergy by Professor Jonathan Hourihane.  This research has the potential to have a positive effect on patients globally and is a wonderful example of the hugely relevant research being carried out at the INFANT research centre.  University College Cork’s College of Medicine and Health (CoMH) is committed to the development of excellent and impactful clinical research and, in that regard, INFANT is of strategic importance to the CoMH and to UCC.”

University College Cork

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