Professor Gideon Lack leads breakthrough research at King’s College London
New discovery by The Portland Hospital’s doctor’s team ‘reduces risk’ of peanut allergy by 80%.
Professor Gideon Lack, one of the world’s leading authorities on the treatment of childhood allergies, who has his private practice at The Portland Hospital, led the team at King’s College trying to find new ways of reducing the risk of allergic reactions caused by peanuts.
The results of the team’s LEAP (Learning Early About Peanut Allergy) study were published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine. They studied a group of 640 babies less than 11 months of age with eczema and showed that for the 320 babies who consumed peanut the risk of developing peanut allergy was reduced by more than 80% compared to the 320 babies who avoided peanut.
Researchers said it was the first time that this level of risk reduction had been achieved.
The study was carried out after it was found that Jewish children in Israel who were given peanut containing foods as babies had a significantly lower incidence of peanut allergy than Jewish children in the UK.
Professor Lack said he was delighted with the findings of the LEAP research.
“Every research doctor is looking for a way of preventing or curing a disease and this study has taken a real step forward in preventing peanut allergy in many children.”
“Peanut allergies can be very dangerous as most people know and if we can dramatically reduce the number of children at risk that will be a major achievement. There is real hope for the future,” says Professor Lack.
The number of children developing allergies has been growing for some years with researchers citing different factors causing the rise.
“This study demonstrates that previous advice to avoid giving babies peanut products has been responsible at least in part for the rise in peanut allergy,” says Dr George Du Toit, study Co Investigator. At present mothers are told to avoid giving children under five whole peanuts because of the danger of choking and until recently it was advised that babies with eczema should avoid peanut altogether.
The results of the LEAP study have delighted doctors across the country and it is hoped that new advice about how to manage babies and children at risk of peanut allergy will be developed in the near future. Professor Lack states: “It is safe to feed infants more than four months of age peanut products.” However, he cautions “babies who develop severe eczema in the first months of life should have allergy testing to peanut as soon as possible and if they test negative then peanut should be introduced into their diet as quickly as possible to prevent the allergy developing.”
Dr Du Toit notes that previous advice about avoiding whole peanuts remains valid.
 10 times lower incidence, in accordance with the LEAP study.