The peanut allergy epidemic: allergen molecular characterisation and prospects for specific therapy

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Peanut (Arachis hypogaea) allergy is a major cause of food-induced anaphylaxis, with increasing prevalence worldwide. To date, there is no cure for peanut allergy, and, unlike many other food allergies, it usually persists through to adulthood. Prevention of exposure to peanuts is managed through strict avoidance, which can be compromised by the frequent use of peanuts and peanut products in food preparations. Conventional subcutaneous-injection allergen immunotherapy using crude peanut extract is not a recommended treatment because of the risk of severe side effects, largely as a result of specific IgE antibodies. Consequently, there is an urgent need to develop a suitable peanut allergen preparation that can induce specific clinical and immunological tolerance to peanuts in allergic individuals without adverse side effects. This requires detailed molecular and immunological characterisation of the allergenic components of peanut. This article reviews current knowledge on clinically relevant peanut allergens, in particular Ara h 1, Ara h 2 and Ara h 3, together with options for T-cell-reactive but non-IgE-binding allergen variants for specific immunotherapeutic strategies. These include T-cell-epitope peptide and hypoallergenic mutant vaccines. Alternative routes of administration such as sublingual are also considered, and appropriate adjuvants for delivering effective treatments at these sites examined.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1 - 18
Number of pages18
JournalExpert Reviews in Molecular Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2007

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