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Health: Allergy Patch Brings Hope to Peanut Allergy Sufferers

By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- A new experimental way to treat people with peanut allergies, one of the most common food allergies that can cause deadly allergic reactions.  3 On Your Side Health Reporter Stephanie Stahl has more on the new peanut patch.

Eight-year-old Joshua Mandelbaum has a peanut allergy that's so severe just touching a peanut could be deadly.

"His throat has swelled.  His body has swelled.  He has had hives from head to toe," said Lianne Mandelbaum, Joshua's mother.

Hoping to prevent those kinds of reactions, Joshua is  testing a new patch containing peanut protein.  He has to wear it every day for at least the next two-and-a-half years.  Researchers want to know if repeated exposure to peanuts can actually desensitize children.

"This protein gets into the outer layer of the skin is taken up by specialized cells that then take it to the inner parts of the immune system," said Dr. Hugh Sampson, an Allergist.  He says the initial goal is for children to build a resistance.

"Trying to get them to tolerate five grams of peanut protein which would be the equivalent of eating 20 peanuts," said Dr. Sampson.

Doctors say oral therapies for peanut allergies can be effective, but often have side effects.  Researchers hope going through the skin will mean fewer problems.

Patients in the study don't know if they have a peanut patch or a placebo patch.  But Joshua's parents think he has the real thing because he gets a little itchy at times, but he says it's worth it.

"It could save my life one day," said Joshua.

Close to three million Americans suffer from some sort of nut allergy.  The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia is among 24 centers nationwide testing the experimental patch.

The developer of the peanut patch is also testing ones for milk allergies and house dust mite allergies.

The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia have a variety of peanut allergy studies going on.  For information call 267-426-6857.

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