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Medical Breakthrough Sends UCC ‘Nuts’

Last week, the world’s largest peanut allergy treatment trial revealed results that have been described as a “game-changer” for those who are allergic to peanuts.

Through his work as Principal Investigator at the INFANT Centre, Professor of Pediatrics and Child Health at University College Cork, Jonathan Hourihane has been leading the revolutionary immunotherapy trial in Ireland, which has shown that more than two thirds (67%) of those on the treatment could tolerate peanuts after the trial. This tolerance gives peanut allergy sufferers real safety, and the ability to cope with accidental exposure in the community. 

Speaking in wake of the results, Professor Hourihane said “up to now, without any treatment available, peanut allergy has put children and adults at risk of unpredictable and occasionally life-threatening reactions. The AR101 immunotherapy is a real breakthrough for those affected by peanut allergy.  It works by introducing initially minute controlled amounts of peanut protein, with escalation over a sustained period of 6 to 12 months, building up a patient’s tolerance to peanut. We have seen patients go from being highly allergic to very small doses, like one tenth of a peanut, to being able to manage to eat the equivalent of 2 or 3 peanuts without a significant reaction. This is a game changer for anyone living with this allergy.”

The AR101 trial has been ongoing over the past two years, involving a double-blind, placebo-controlled food challenge. The participants, aged between 4-17 years old, went from having allergic reactions in the form of vomiting, swelling of the throat and stomach pain (amongst other reactions) following the ingestion of 1 mg of peanut protein, to being able to safely ingest up to 600 mg of peanut protein.

The importance of the study has resulted in it being published in the world’s leading medical journal, The New England Journal of Medicine. The efforts of the UCC Professor have been highlighted and praised by UCC President Patrick O’Shea, who said, “We applaud the development of a new immuno-therapy for peanut allergy by Professor Jonathan Hourihane.  This research has the potential to have a positive effect on patients globally and is a wonderful example of the hugely relevant research being carried out at the INFANT research centre.  University College Cork’s College of Medicine and Health (CoMH) is committed to the development of excellent and impactful clinical research and, in that regard, INFANT is of strategic importance to the CoMHand to UCC”.

The ground-breaking study is yet another example which emphasises the quality of research which is being undertaken in UCC. These results could not only help people in Ireland but throughout the globe. Speaking along these lines, INFANT Director Geraldine Boylan said, “This is an example of the excellent, world leading clinical research ongoing at the INFANT centre at UCC, which is making a huge difference to lives of children and their families, not just in Ireland but all over the world. We are delighted to be a significant player in bringing this new therapy to fruition and acknowledge the incredible work of our INFANT allergy research team, and particularly the incredible work of our colleague, Prof. Jonathan Hourihane”.