Nasal vaccine suspends peanut allergies in mice. Could humans be next?

Imagine a vaccine that can “turn off” peanut allergies, an allergic reaction which affects more than 3 million people in the United States alone. Thanks to research carried out at Mary H. Weiser Food Allergy Center at the University of Michigan, such a dream might become a reality.

Researchers at the institution have developed a special nasal vaccine, and demonstrated its efficacy in mice. The vaccine is a nanoemulsion capable of increasing the body’s natural immune response. After just a few monthly doses of the vaccine, mice were temporarily protected from allergic reactions after peanut exposure. This immunization against the reaction continued for two weeks after the final dose of vaccine had been administered. The exact duration is still being investigated.

“Our group is working towards the development of vaccines as a safe and long-lasting immunotherapies to treat food allergy,” Jessica O’Konek, a research investigator at the Mary H. Weiser Food Allergy Center, told Digital Trends. “We studied our experimental vaccine in mouse models of peanut allergy and found that three doses of the vaccine changed the immune responses to peanut, suppressing the components of the response that are known to result in allergic reactions. Importantly, mice that received the vaccine had significantly less severe reactions to peanut exposure compared to mice that received the placebo. These results are exciting because they demonstrate that just three doses of a vaccine can confer protection from allergic reactions to peanut.”

While this work has currently only been conducted with mice, it is a potentially significant advance which may one day be carried over to humans. Interestingly, mice with an allergic response to peanuts exhibit similar symptoms to humans, including itchy skin and difficulty breathing.

“We are currently testing how long the protection induced by the vaccine lasts, as well as expanding our studies to include other food allergens,” O’Konek continued. “We are also further investigating the mechanisms by which this vaccine works, and are hopeful that we will move this forward towards clinical trials in humans.”

A paper describing the work, “Nanoemulsion adjuvant-driven redirection of TH2 immunity inhibits allergic reactions in murine models of peanut allergy,” was recently published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.