Designing a low-allergy peanut?

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In a project sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, researchers are working to develop a new breed of “low allergy” peanut. By cross breeding existing types of peanuts, researchers are working to develop a new variety of peanut that lacks the three proteins associated with most peanut allergies, the Telegraph reports. To develop the low allergy peanut, USDA researchers examined the properties of some 900 different peanut strains.

The new peanut is still in early stages of development, and numerous tests analyzing peanut characteristics — and determining whether a newly bred variety could produce the seeds necessary for large scale production —  remain. Yet, should the project live up to researchers’ hopes, it could mean a world of difference for people suffering from potentially deadly peanut allergies.

Researchers are hopeful that a low allergy peanut could be incorporated into allergy treatment programs aimed at building patients’ resistance, and could potentially help eliminate the cross-contamination issues on manufacturing production lines and during food preparation in restaurant kitchens.

The research was presented this week before the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology in London. Soheila Maleki, a research chemist with the USDA and one of the investigators on the project told the BBC that a low-allergy peanut might be publicly available within two to five years.

Maleki also told the BBC that a low-allergy peanut could not only be incorporated into allergy treatment programs and reduce risk of reaction by current peanut allergy sufferers, but potentially limit the likelihood that some children develop peanut allergies in the first place.

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