A team of researchers has developed a peanut-protein-based toothpaste that may prevent severe allergic reactions in people with peanut allergies.
The toothpaste gradually introduces small amounts of peanut allergens into a user’s body, steadily increasing their tolerance levels. This toothpaste-based treatment is called oral mucosal immunotherapy (OMIT).
“The toothpaste should be easier to administer than injection treatments, which are used for allergies to grass, trees, and weeds. We think it will provide better protection because the patient will be taking their treatment on a regular basis without any interruptions,” Dr. William Berger, one of the researchers and a member of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), told NBC News.
In a recently published study, the researchers presented the results of the phase one trial for the OMIT treatment. The trials lasted 48 weeks and involved 32 adults with a history of peanut allergies.
Does it work?
Of the 32 subjects, 24 brushed their teeth using the OMIT toothpaste at least once daily for 11 months. Meanwhile, the remaining eight participants used a placebo toothpaste. The primary goal of the trial was to test whether or not the toothpaste was suitable for human use.
By the fourth month, the daily intake of toothpaste was slowly increased such that each of the 24 study participants was now being exposed to an amount equivalent to one-third of a peanut kernel.
According to the researchers, every time a subject brushed their teeth, their mouth absorbed the peanut allergens from the paste. Over time, this regular exposure eventually made the immune cells in their mouths adapt to the allergens, reducing the severity of allergic reactions in the subjects.
Some participants experienced oral itching and other mild side effects initially because of the toothpaste. However, none of those symptoms were severe enough to make any participant choose to leave the trial.
“We noted that 100 percent of those being treated with the toothpaste consistently tolerated the pre-specified protocol highest dose. No moderate nor severe systemic reactions occurred in active participants. Non-systemic adverse reactions were mostly local (oral itching), mild, and transient,” Berger said.
The phase one trials prove that toothpaste-based OMIT treatment is safe for adults with peanut allergies. Considering these results, the researchers now aim to expand their study to children.
However, the toothpaste is not some magical permanent cure for peanut allergies. Instead, it is likely to work as a remedy against severe allergic reactions resulting from unintended exposure to peanuts.
Why do we need peanut protein toothpaste for kids?
While there’s no permanent cure for allergies, researchers are keen to test the effectiveness of their toothpaste in children because allergies are more receptive to reversal or treatment during early stages. This is because, during childhood, the immune system is highly capable of adapting to allergens.
“I think as people get older, the allergy becomes a little bit more set,” Dr. Ruchi Parekh, director of the Center for Food Allergy & Asthma at Northwestern Medicine, told NBC News.
Therefore, allergy experts also recommend that parents have their kids tested for allergies within a year after the child’s birth.
Scientists have previously tested other types of oral immunotherapies for infants and teenagers. Some of those treatments involved giving daily doses of peanut-based products to kids to make their bodies more tolerant to the allergens.
For instance, in 2020, the US Food and Drug Administration approved an anti-peanut allergy capsule Palforzia for children 4 to 17 years old. These capsules are consumed with applesauce, pudding, or yogurt.
The authors of the toothpaste study claim that their treatment could turn out to be more effective than Palforzia because a child may have a problem taking medicines daily with yogurt, but they aren’t likely to have any issues with brushing their teeth daily as treatment.
However, Palforzia is not the only other allergy treatment. Some scientists are also testing a peanut skin patch that, similar to the toothpaste, also works by introducing small amounts of allergens into a person’s body.
Recent trials of the patch show that it can effectively increase the allergen threshold in children. Dr. Berger and his team also aim to achieve similar or better results with their toothpaste in the upcoming trials involving 80 children.
If successful, their treatment could be the simplest way to eliminate peanut allergies. After all, what could be better than brushing your teeth and getting rid of dangerous allergies without any extra effort?
Was this helpful?