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Curing peanut allergies with peanuts

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Updated: 2/18/2013 3:42 pm
It starts out innocently enough, parents introduce their children to a kid cuisine classic: Peanut butter.

Some times, unfortunately, there's a bad reaction.

Young Stormer Freeman was just a little guy when he was diagnosed with a peanut allergy.

Now eight years later he can have any kind of peanut product he wants.

Stormer's success comes from participating in a study of "sublingual immunotherapy" at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine.

Researchers there put tiny amounts of liquified peanut under the tongue of those with peanut allergies, slowly increasing the amount of peanut exposure and teaching the immune system there's nothing to fear.

"Holding it under the tongue allows it to be absorbed into our immune system in a faster and better way," explains Dr. Wesley Burks.

While sublingual immunotherapy is promising, the research remains years away from clinical use.

And don't try this at home.

"What we know about children and adults that have peanut allergy is that they can have an unknown severe reaction at any time," Dr. Burks warns.

The therapy didn't work for nearly a third of the 40 study participants, but Stormer has graduated from the program and continues parent-monitored therapy at home with peanut butter on crackers every morning.

"He can have candy bars, he can have anything that's processed with peanuts now. So that's opened up a whole new world for him," his mother says.

Other food allergy treatments are in the research and development phase, from oral medications to topical treatments patients put on their skin.

-- Erika Edwards reports
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