The LEAP Study (Learning Early About Peanut Allergy) is a clinical trial that aims to determine the best strategy to prevent peanut allergy in young children, either through avoidance of peanut or frequent exposure during early childhood. The LEAP Study and its side studies are funded by generous grant and charity donations, including donations from the innovative ICAP Charity Day.
An important part of this novel research project is to examine the increasing prevalence of peanut allergy and how it impacts on children’s and their families’ lives. The effects on allergy that arise through consumption or avoidance of peanut have been studied on all children who were screened for the LEAP Study as infants. Intriguingly, some of these very young infants were already peanut allergic, despite having never knowingly eaten peanut.
The LEAP Study has included 640 children from a diverse mix of national and ethnic backgrounds. A further 110 children have been involved on continuation or parallel studies. Seven-year-old Harrison is one of those children. These assessments are extremely detailed and a major undertaking for participants and their families.
‘My wife Linda and I were a bit reluctant at first because nobody wants to put their child through that,’ says John, Harrison’s father. ‘But because we are so careful, we didn’t really know what would happen and more importantly, my son didn’t know. It’s important for him to be able to experience what would happen, and it’s better for that to be in a controlled environment rather than at home, or accidental in a restaurant.’
Harrison took his ‘peanut challenge’ aged five, which involved eating small batches containing either placebo or peanut. Harrison’s doctor, George Du Toit and his team were expecting a potentially severe reaction and explained this in detail to John and Linda: the experienced clinical research team was prepared to react quickly if necessary. After the third ‘double-blinded’ meal, Harrison complained of a slightly itchy throat and became lethargic, pale and weak. Harrison was suffering anaphylaxis, a severe reaction that can be fatal if not treated immediately. The staff responded instantly and he thankfully responded well to the adrenaline and other medications administered.
‘It was really scary because we expected his throat to swell or for him to have hives, but we didn’t see any of the signs we anticipated,’ says John. ‘It was a real eye-opener for us because the things that we would have ordinarily been looking out for didn’t happen. If before that, he’d come to us and said I’ve got a sore throat and I’m tired, we would have thought he was sickening from a cold or something.’
The results of the LEAP Study are due to be released in 2015. They will inform health policies – not just in the UK, but across the world – about how and when to introduce peanut into children’s diets to prevent allergies developing.
The ICAP Charity Day takes place today, 3 December 2014, when ICAP gives away all its revenues and commissions to worthy causes around the world. ICAP’s support will enable Professor Lack and his team to carry out further allergy research on the LEAP cohort, changing the lives of families and their children who suffer from life-threatening allergies, like Harrison.
‘We cannot thank enough the ICAP staff who participate in fundraising for us,’ says Dr Du Toit. ‘Each donation takes us a further step towards our goal to reduce the burden of allergic disease, and to improve the quality of life of our allergic patients.’
John said: ‘Being part of the LEAP Study was a good experience for us, but mostly for Harrison because he now knows what it’s like to experience anaphylaxis. It’s been invaluable for us.’
Notes to editors
Find out more about ICAP Charity Day on the ICAP website.
Visit the King’s website for more information on King’s peanut allergy research.
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