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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 May 2007, 10:17 GMT 11:17 UK
Peanut allergy study seeks babies
Babies in the study will be given peanuts
Babies are being sought for a study investigating if early exposure to peanuts will prevent allergy.

King's College London scientists, plus doctors at Guy's and St Thomas' hospital, hope to include 480 children in the seven-year study.

The babies being studied are between four and 11 months and already have eczema or egg allergy, putting them at high risk of being allergic to peanuts.

Peanut allergy is increasingly common, affecting one in 70 schoolchildren.

Our study findings may result in a change in public health policy to prevent food allergies
Professor Gideon Link

Levels have doubled in the UK over the last 10 years.

Current guidelines advise women to avoid nuts during pregnancy if there is a family history of allergy. This group is also advised not to give their babies peanuts before they are three-years-old.

It is currently not clear how to prevent peanut allergy.

Some studies suggest that peanut avoidance in early infancy may help to prevent allergy, whereas other research suggests the opposite may be true.

'Clinical implications'

Professor Gideon Lack, who will be leading the Leap (Learning Early About Peanut allergies) study, has been looking into the subject for many years.

He said: "Recent evidence suggests that children who eat peanut snacks early in life may in fact be protected against peanut allergy, in contrast with previous studies which have suggested the opposite."

In the study, the babies will be divided into two groups. One will receive a peanut snack regularly for the first three years of life, whereas the control group will completely avoid peanuts.

Both groups will be assessed for peanut allergy when they are five-years-old.

Professor Lack said, "Determining whether avoidance or early exposure to peanut prevents the development of peanut allergy and understanding how this happens will have important clinical implications.

"Our study findings may result in a change in public health policy to prevent food allergies and will enable scientists to identify important treatment targets to try and develop cures for children who already suffer from peanut allergy."

Anyone who has a baby of the right age who is interested in taking part in the study can contact the researchers on 0800 234 6522 or email info@leapstudy.co.uk. Further information can be found at http://www.leapstudy.co.uk

Two girls for whom peanuts are a big issue

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