Crunch time for peanut allergies

The number of cases are soaring and doctors don't know why. But could a cure finally be in sight?

Why the peanut? That is the mystery. What is it about this humble legume that causes humans to react so powerfully? The distressing answer is that no one knows.

Sensitivity to peanuts is one of the fastest-growing food allergies worldwide and has become a major health concern. In England, cases more than doubled between 2001 and 2005. Today, an estimated 440,000 children and adults under 45 suffer anything from a mild stomach upset or rash to a life-threatening collapse when they eat a peanut.

In those worst affected, exposure to even a tiny amount of nut can trigger an anaphylactic reaction involving sudden swelling, breathlessness and low blood pressure requiring emergency medical treatment. About 30,000 people a year suffer potentially life-threatening anaphylactic attacks from all causes, the most common triggers of which are insect stings and peanuts. There is no cure for peanut allergy and doctors remain baffled by the rise. The most severely affected sufferers have to carry syringes of adrenaline with them for injection in the event of an anaphylactic attack. But specialists say there is hope of a treatment that would prevent people suffering life-threatening reactions.

Source - Independent

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