Nut vaccine on trial
A new peanut allergy vaccine has proven successful in mice.
The vaccine uniquely uses a virus-based platform to rewrite the body’s natural response to peanut allergens, causing it to elicit a non-allergic immune response in lieu of an allergic one.
Biotechnology company Sementis and the University of SA’s Experimental Therapeutics Laboratory developed the treatment in the hope of helping millions of people.
New funding will be used to test the vaccine in humans.
Peanut allergies occur when the immune system mistakenly identifies peanuts as an allergen, signalling immune cells to release chemicals, resulting in adverse reactions that can range from mild hives, cramps, nausea and vomiting to life threatening anaphylactic reactions that require immediate medical attention.
Severe allergic reactions can include impaired breathing, swelling in the throat, a sudden drop in blood pressure, dizziness, and even death.
Globally, the incidence of food allergies and related life-threatening anaphylaxis is increasing, with the World Allergy Organization reporting 220-550 million people are affected.
Australia has particularly high prevalence of peanut allergies, with one in 200 adults, and almost three in every 100 children affected.
Project lead, Dr Preethi Eldi says the new vaccine has great potential to change lives.
“The impact peanut allergy can have on a family is all-consuming, especially given the very real risks to a child’s heath,” Dr Eldi says.
“Parents are constantly protecting their child from being exposed to peanuts in all forms – from popular breakfast cereals and school snacks, to biscuits, cakes and even health foods – whether at home, school, or in social situations.
“And, it means being vigilant and imposing very stringent dietary restrictions, not only for the child, but often, also for family members.
“If we can deliver an effective peanut allergy vaccine, we’ll remove this stress, concern, and constant monitoring, freeing the child and their family from the constraints and dangers of peanut allergy.”
The new peanut allergy vaccine is formulated by packaging bits of peanut proteins into the Sementis Copenhagen-vectored (SCV) virus platform.
SCV developer Professor John Hayball says the peanut allergy vaccine tricks the immune system into seeing peanut allergens in a new light, so that the body responds normally instead of generating an allergic reaction.
“We’re effectively reprogramming the body to see peanuts as an entity that can be cured by a vaccine, rather than an allergen that elicits an allergic reaction,” Prof Hayball says.
“Already, the vaccine is showing signs of success, shifting peanut-specific immune responses in mouse models of peanut allergy, and in preliminary in vitro vaccination-like studies using human blood samples from clinically-confirmed peanut allergic people.
“The next steps are to gain further human samples and confirm the efficacy of the vaccine. This will demonstrate human translational capacity and will significantly increase the chances of success in future clinical trials.”