Vaccine suppresses peanut allergy in mice

Peanut allergies in mice have been effectively turned off by a vaccine — and researchers hope that a similar treatment could one day be available for humans.

A nasal spray, created by researchers at the University of Michigan and administered in three monthly doses, proved to shield the small animals from any negative responses to peanuts. The researchers have worked for almost 20 years to get the drug to this point — effectively refocusing the immune cells on what the body is allergic to, preventing a reaction.

"We're changing the way the immune cells respond upon exposure to allergens," lead author of the study Jessica O'Konek told the UM health blog, M Health Lab. "Importantly, we can do this after allergy is established, which provides for potential therapy of allergies in humans.

"By redirecting the immune responses, our vaccine not only suppresses the response but prevents the activation of cells that would initiate allergic reactions," she said.

RELATED: Tips for minimizing the risk of peanut allergy reactions when traveling

In the study, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, the researchers said that before the vaccine, the allergic mice experienced some of the same symptoms after ingesting peanuts as humans, like itchy skin and difficulty breathing. But two weeks after doses of the vaccine were administered, the mice began experiencing "protection" from their typical allergic responses.

The study is currently focused on figuring out how long the mice are protected from the allergy but the team expects the results to be long-lasting.

"Right now, the only FDA-approved way to address food allergy is to avoid the food or suppress allergic reactions after they have already started," O'Konek said. "Our goal is to use immunotherapy to change the immune system's response by developing a therapeutic vaccine for food allergies."