Trial using milk and peanuts to improve children's allergies "nothing less than miracle" says Sheffield doctor

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"Nothing less than a miracle”

Children given everyday foods to treat milk and peanut allergies are showing dramatic signs of improvement, according to early trial results.

Parents of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, who died in 2016 after suffering a severe allergic reaction to sesame in a Pret baguette, set up the foundation which has funded the research. The Natasha Allergy Research Foundation, which hopes to cure allergies through research, has funded the £2.5m clinical trial which five NHS hospitals have joined so far.

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Sheffield Children's HospitalSheffield Children's Hospital
Sheffield Children's Hospital

The new clinical oral immunotherapy (OIT) trial is using everyday allergens to build up a patient's tolerance over time.

Sibel Sonmez-Ajtai, paediatric allergy consultant and principal investigator at Sheffield Children's NHS Foundation Trust, said: "This study is enabling us to do something we would never have dreamed of doing before - giving patients the foods we know they are allergic to.

"This treatment is not a cure for a food allergy, but what it achieves is life-transforming.

"To have a patient who has had anaphylaxis to 4mls of milk to then tolerate 90mls within six to eight months is nothing less than a miracle."

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The trial is being run at Sheffield Children's NHS Foundation Trust, as well as University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

NHS staff are being trained to offer OIT treatment through the trial, which sees patients given the food under medical supervision.

Foods are given under medical supervision, and the trial is also training NHS staff to offer OIT treatment.

Thomas Farmer, aged 11, who was diagnosed with a severe peanut allergy when he was one, can now eat six peanuts a day after joining the trial in Southampton.

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Thomas Farmer and his mum.Thomas Farmer and his mum.
Thomas Farmer and his mum. | PA

His mother Lauren said: "At first, it was very scary for both Thomas and us when he did the food challenge, as we weren't sure what to expect.

"Knowing that Thomas can now tolerate six peanuts a day has taken away so much anxiety around food. It will also hopefully mean that he will be able to eat a wider variety of food as we won't be so concerned about accidental exposure.”

Since joining the trial in Newcastle, five-year-old Grace Fisher, who has a milk allergy, is now drinking 120ml milk a day and will soon be able to eat pizza with her friends.

Her mother Emma said: "Grace is over six months into this journey and is doing amazing. She is currently on 120ml of milk and loves her daily hot chocolates."

Grace Fisher, aged 5, of Newcastle enjoys her new daily hot chocolates.Grace Fisher, aged 5, of Newcastle enjoys her new daily hot chocolates.
Grace Fisher, aged 5, of Newcastle enjoys her new daily hot chocolates. | PA
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To date, 139 people aged from two to 23 with allergies to peanuts or cow's milk have started treatment.

It will shortly start in Scotland, with plans for Bristol and Leeds to also join.

Tanya Ednan-Laperouse, Natasha’s mother, said: "If Natasha were alive today, this is exactly the type of research she would have loved to be part of.

"This is a major first step in our mission to make food allergies history. We look forward to seeing the final results."

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Nadim Ednan-Laperouse, Natasha’s father, said: "We can't rely on big pharma and its giant profits to be a game-changer for people living with allergies.

"That is why we are harnessing the support of the food industry, who have helped fund this trial, to prove that OIT can work with everyday foods, making it more feasible to be available on the NHS."

The Natasha Allergy Research Foundation is funding the trial through donations made to the charity from firms including Pret, Lidl, Leon, Uber Eats, Greggs, Tesco, Just Eat, Co-op, Morrisons, KFC, Sainsbury's, Costa, Burger King, Domino's, Kellogg's, M&S, Muller and Waitrose.

Full results are expected in 2027.

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