London: Scientists for a French firm have developed a new skin patch that could help thousands of people affected by life-threatening reactions to peanuts.
The stick-on patch is packed with tiny traces of peanut protein and is worn on the arm or back, that allows traces of the protein to gradually seep through the top layers of the skin, the Daily Mail reported.
It then comes into contact with the immune system cells, which normally are going to trigger a life-threatening overreaction.
But the proteins are in such small quantities that the immune cells slowly get used to their presence, learning to recognise the popular snack so that they are no longer a threat.
As a result of this, the body’s defences stop overreacting when they come into contact with peanuts.
The patch, which is about the size of ten pence piece, has just entered a year-long international trial involving more than 200 patients with severe peanut allergies.
The volunteers will either wear a peanut patch or an identical dummy one, and will change it for a new one every day.
Scientists, who are behind the patch, hope it will help those with known peanut allergies whose lives are put at risk through accidentally coming into contact with small amounts of the harmful protein.
Around one in 50 children in the UK is allergic to peanuts. It often starts when the kids are very young and most first allergic reactions take place when a child is between 14 months and two years old.
Boys are 30 percent more likely to get it than girls and children from relatively well-off homes face double the risk of their poorer counterparts.
Many sufferers have to carry a device called an EpiPen with them, which can be used in an emergency to inject the hormone adrenaline, which dampens down the inflammation and swelling in the airways during a severe attack.
The breakthrough patch, called ‘Viaskin Peanut,’ does not cause anaphylactic shock - the very severe reaction where the airways shut down within minutes - because the proteins in it stay in the skin and do not penetrate as far as the bloodstream.
“There are no treatments available on the market for this life-threatening disease. Viaskin Peanut brings real hope for millions of patients,” a spokesman for French firm DBV Technologies, which developed the patch, said.