Ask the Allergist: What Is the Peanut Patch?
Q: What should a peanut-allergic patient expect when considering the peanut patch? What are the benefits of the peanut patch, and is it safe?
Julie Wang, MD: The peanut patch, or epicutaneous immunotherapy, is a new approach to treating peanut allergy. It’s a small patch that contains peanut protein that is applied to the patient’s skin once a day.
The patch exposes the body to very small amounts of peanut and teaches the immune system to be less reactive to peanut over time. The goal is to protect peanut-allergic individuals in case they have an accidental exposure to peanut.
These patches contain very small quantities of peanut allergen – approximately 1/1000 of a peanut on it. Studies have shown that, when applying the patch daily, many patients have been able to increase the threshold of peanut exposure that’s needed to trigger an allergic reaction, which means increased protection from an accidental exposure.
Because the dose of allergen on each of these patches is so small, studies have shown this approach is well tolerated by patients and the safety profile is very favorable. What I mean by safety profile is that allergic reactions to the patch are less frequent than what is seen in other approaches to immunotherapy for peanut. This is likely because the dose in the peanut patch is very low and the dose does not change over time.
In addition, the majority of patients who have started this therapy through the clinical trials have continued with it and did not drop out due to side effects.
The peanut patch is a treatment that will require close supervision by a physician.
Julie Wang, MD, FACAAI, is professor of pediatrics, allergy and immunology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. She is a fellow with the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) and a member of the ACAAI Food Allergy Committee.
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