A new toothpaste which shows the potential of preventing severe reactions in adults with peanut allergies has been developed by scientists.
An early-stage clinical trial tested whether 32 adults with peanut allergies could safely brush their teeth with a toothpaste containing trace amounts of peanut protein.
The hope is that introducing tiny amounts of peanuts to the body over time will help the immune system get used to the allergen – reducing severe reactions.
Adults in the trial used the toothpaste for two minutes a day for 11 months, Sky News’s US partner network NBC News reported.
At the end of the study, none of the participants experienced anaphylaxis – an allergic response often characterised by difficulty breathing, swelling in the throat, pale skin, blue lips, fainting or dizziness – or any other severe symptoms.
Although the trial focused on the safety of the toothpaste and did not test the effectiveness of the treatment, the findings are an early indication that it could help prevent life-threatening allergic reactions.
A summary of the results was presented at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology’s annual meeting in Anaheim, California on Thursday.
The study’s lead author Dr William Berger said the toothpaste should be easier to administer than injection treatments currently used for allergies to grass, trees and weeds.
“Patients do not have to do anything other than brush their teeth,” he said. “We think it will provide better protection because the patient will be taking their treatment on a regular basis without any interruptions.”
The study participants were divided into two groups: 24 adults who used the peanut protein-infused toothpaste and eight who used a placebo.
Over the course of four months, researchers gradually increased the amount of peanut protein in the toothpaste until they were receiving the equivalent of approximately one-third of a peanut kernel, Dr Berger said.
The toothpaste is a product from US biotechnology company Intrommune Therapeutics.
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How does it work?
When people brush their teeth with it, the peanut protein is absorbed into their mouth. Over time, immune cells in the mouth should become desensitised to the allergens, making people’s reactions to them less severe.
The toothpaste is only meant to prevent a severe allergic reaction after accidental exposure to peanuts though, Dr Berger noted. It is not designed to cure the allergy.
All but 3% of participants used the toothpaste or placebo for the length of the 11-month trial. While 54% of participants experienced mild itchiness in the month and around the lips, but nobody dropped out of the study due to side effects.
Several other treatments for severe peanut allergies are currently being studied in clinical trials, including a ‘peanut patch’ which goes on the skin to prevent young children from having severe reactions.
With the study suggesting the peanut-protein toothpaste is safe for adults, a paediatric trial involving 80 children aged between four and 17 is expected to begin next year, Dr Berger said.
He hopes to submit the toothpaste to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) within two or three years. Before doing so, another study with a larger group of volunteers needs to be carried out.