UK – A new research has been launched in the UK to investigate if commonly-available peanut and milk products when taken under medical supervision, can be used as a treatment for people living with food allergies.

The research is being spearheaded by the Natasha Allergy Research Foundation, the charity set up by the parents of NatashaEdnan-Laperouse who died aged 15 from a severe food allergic reaction.

The £2.2m (US$2.75 million) oral immunotherapy trial aims to show that everyday foods containing peanut or milk, when taken carefully. according to a standardised protocol under medical supervision, can be used as an alternative to expensive pharmaceutical drugs to desensitise patients.

The use of everyday foods has shown potential to replace medicine in Oral Immunotherapy (OIT) but research is yet to be conducted to prove its effectiveness.

Despite this, NHS England announced in December 2020 the availability of Palforzia – a Nestlé-owned branded immunotherapy treatment for peanut taken daily for at least 2 years to treat children with peanut allergies.

The first ‘NATASHA Trial’ says it will use ‘everyday foods’ instead of expensive pharmaceuticals for OIT., creating “potential life-long treatment for millions of people worldwide living with allergies, at a fraction of the cost, and also affordable for our precious NHS”.

A total of 216 people between the ages of 3 and 23 with a food allergy to cow’s milk and aged 6 and 23 with a food allergy to peanut will be recruited for the study.

Following an initial 12 months of desensitisation (carried out according to a standardised protocol under strict medical supervision), participants will be monitored for a further two years in order to report on longer-term safety and cost-effectiveness.

The end game is to bring the level of evidence to a point where OIT using commercially-available foods could be approved for use in the NHS to treat food-allergic patients most at risk of anaphylaxis.

Co-chief investigator Dr Paul Turner, Leader in Paediatric Allergy & Clinical Immunology at Imperial College London, said: “This study heralds a new-era for the active treatment of food allergy.

 For too long, we have told people just to avoid the food they are allergic to – that is not a treatment, and food-allergic people and their families deserve better.”

If successful, participants with persistent food allergy “will be able to live lives where they no longer have to avoid popular foods which might contain small amounts of allergens due to factory production lines or cross contact,” the charity said.

The three-year trial to be conducted at the Univesity of Southampton will be the first major study funded by The Natasha Allergy Research Foundation

The Research Founding Partners are a consortium of food businesses: Greggs, Tesco, Just Eat, Co-op Morrisons, KFC, Bakkavor, Sainsbury’s, Bidfood, Costa Coffee, Elior UK, Burger King UK, Pret A Manger, Lidl, Leon, Cooplands and Uber Eats.

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