How big is the market for peanut allergies

Full on the nut!

(13.4.17) Attention food allergy sufferers: There is a remedy against the peanut - more precisely: against its allergic effect. And now the bad news: you have to be a mouse to benefit from it.

This mouse is doing really badly: peanut allergy?
© Albert Anker

The fruits of Arachis hypogeae have been causing annoyance for a long time: peanuts - botanically not nuts, but legumes - cause allergic reactions even in the smallest (microgram) amounts in correspondingly sensitive people - and that for a lifetime: Depending on their state of expression, there may be watery eyes, itching, coughing, skin- and irritation of the mucous membranes, to eczema flare-ups and edema, to nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. It is not uncommon for the whole thing to be life-threatening in the form of racing heart, dizziness, unconsciousness and anaphylactic shock.

The peanut does not even have to appear as such, for example in the form of salted peanut flips or peanut butter - no, "thanks" to the industrial-scale processing methods customary today, ground peanuts have long been found as an invisible ingredient in countless foods and, above all, in very many Sweets: in chocolate bars, tarts and cakes, ice cream, savory biscuits and potato chips, but also in edible oils, cornflakes, muesli, ready-made meals, personal care products and even in crayons (and I like to chew on them every now and then).

Current therapy: keep your distance!

So far there is only one advice for allergy sufferers: keep your distance! All contact with the peanut should be avoided and it should definitely not be put in your mouth. For the reasons mentioned, however, this is increasingly difficult, unless you are eagerly supplied from your own vegetable garden - even if the manufacturers have been required by law since 2005 to list the risky fruit in their ingredient lists on the packaging, if they contain it. The high sensitivity of peanut allergy sufferers, especially to the worst villain, the peanut allergen Ara h2, is also the reason why it is now so often read: “May contain traces of peanuts”.

Around 10.5 million children up to the age of 14 live in Germany, and an estimated 50,000 to 100,000 of them suffer from a peanut allergy. The only effective treatment currently available is to strictly avoid contact with peanuts; however, there are no approved vaccines or therapies. As a scientist, one asks oneself: What are the drug manufacturers actually doing? Do they sleep?

Not at all, pharmaceutical research is not idle, especially since the high number of peanut allergy sufferers also promises enormous sales potential and, if successful, the effective drug could also be adapted to other allergies. But the development of drugs takes time, and the number of allergy sufferers is apparently increasing faster than research and development can be done. But there are promising approaches - for example that of the Munich-based Bencard Allergie GmbH. In February, it announced “positive efficacy and safety data” for its experimental vaccination against peanut allergy.

Preclinically great, not yet tested on humans

Bencard Allergie, a subsidiary of the listed British group of companies Allergy Therapeutics (around 500 employees), had carried out preclinical (read: animal experiments) studies on their therapeutic vaccination against peanut allergy - and apparently the hoped-for “proof of concept” (read: proof of effectiveness ) receive. The vaccine with the working name "Polyvac Peanut" is soon to go into clinical phase I development.

According to Bencard, in the experiments carried out, a single dose of the vaccine - which consists of virus-like particles (VLP) combined with recombinant peanut allergen - was successful for the experimental animals that were not specified in more detail (in a report, Bencard vaguely speaks of "test subjects sensitized to peanuts") Protected against anaphylaxis (read: a pathological reaction of the immune system) after peanut challenge. The trials were placebo-controlled and the vaccine had met the safety requirements, checked by an "intravenous provocation with the allergen". It is therefore hypoallergenic, so it does not cause any allergenic reactions. It is administered subcutaneously, i.e. it is injected under the skin.

The parent company Allergy Therapeutics speaks of a global market for peanut allergy therapies worth a total of 7.5 billion euros per year and intends to publish the study results in a peer-reviewed journal soon. However, it will be years before an effective vaccine that is approved and successful can also relieve human peanut allergy sufferers. Therefore, the following still applies to sensitive people with regard to peanuts: Keep your distance!

Winfried Köppelle


Last changes: May 10, 2017