A new toothpaste that shows the potential to prevent severe reactions in adults with peanut allergies has been developed by researchers.
An early clinical trial tested whether 32 adults with peanut allergies could safely brush their teeth with a toothpaste that contained trace amounts of peanut protein.
The hope is that introducing small 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’ US partner network NBC News reported.
At the end of the study, none of the participants experienced anaphylaxis — an allergic reaction often characterized by difficulty breathing, swelling of the throat, pale skin, blue lips, fainting or dizziness — or other serious symptoms.
Although the trial focused on the toothpaste’s safety and did not test the effectiveness of the treatment, the results are an early indication that it could help prevent life-threatening allergic reactions.
A summary of the findings 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 grass, tree and weed allergies.
“Patients don’t have to do anything other than brush their teeth,” he said. “We think it will provide better protection because the patient will take their treatment on a regular basis without any interruptions.”
Participants in the study were divided into two groups: 24 adults who used the peanut protein-infused toothpaste and eight who used a placebo.
Over four months, researchers gradually increased the amount of peanut protein in the toothpaste until they received the equivalent of about one-third of a peanut kernel, said Dr. Berger.
The toothpaste is a product of the American biotechnology company Intrommune Therapeutics.
How does it work?
When people brush their teeth with it, the peanut protein is absorbed into their mouths. Over time, immune cells in the mouth should become desensitized to the allergens, making people’s reactions to them less severe.
The toothpaste is only intended to prevent a severe allergic reaction after accidental exposure to peanuts, noted Dr. Berger. It is not designed to cure the allergy.
All but 3% of participants used the toothpaste or placebo during the 11-month trial. While 54% of participants experienced mild itching in the month and around the lips, none 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’ that 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 pediatric trial involving 80 children aged between four and 17 is expected to begin next year, said Dr. Berger.
He hopes to submit the toothpaste to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) within two or three years. Before doing so, another study must be conducted with a larger group of volunteers.