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Australia Just Cured Your Peanut Allergy

Scientists from Down Under may have discovered a cure for peanut allergies—and it requires nothing more than a bit of bacteria that's naturally found in yogurt.
January 31, 2015, 9:48pm
Photo via Flickr user euromagic

Praise be to the Starbucks-free land of Fairy Bread, boobialla, and potato farmers that look like Joe Pesci in Oliver Stone's JFK.

Scientists from Down Under may have discovered a cure for peanut allergies—and it requires nothing more than a bit of bacteria that's naturally found in yogurt.

Researchers from the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute in Melbourne recently completed an 18-month study of 60 children with confirmed peanut allergies. Roughly half were treated with Lactobacillus rhamnosus—a probiotic found in yogurt and even some sausages—while the other half received a placebo. They were then given steadily increasing doses of peanut protein throughout the course of the study.

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Amazingly, more than 80 percent of the children on probiotic therapy were able to eat peanuts by the end of the trial. Only one of the children treated with the placebo could do the same.

That means they can effectively say goodbye to their EpiPens and hello to the fatty joys of satay, Reese's, and the curiously American yen for peanut butter.

As the most common cause of food-related anaphylaxis, peanut allergies are some of the most pernicious in the world—even if the rates of prevalence widely vary. The US National Institutes of Health has estimated that peanut allergies affect roughly 0.6 percent of the American population; self-reported rates are often inflated to double or triple that figure. Lead researcher Mimi Tang told the Sydney Morning Herald that rates of all food allergies are increasing in the Western world; one in ten Australian children has a food allergy, and 3 percent are allergic to peanuts specifically.

While the study is certainly promising, don't go out and start buying up the entire Whole Foods dairy aisle to treat Junior's life-threatening allergy all by yourself. For starters, the children in the study were given a daily dose of Lactobacillus that's equivalent to about 20 kilograms of yogurt.

Oh, that's nothing, you say. I put 20 kilos of yogurt in my enemas every week.

But really, don't go homemade here. Likely aware that there is some overlap in the strange Venn diagram of kombucha sippers, anti-vaxxers, and DIY fermenters, Tang has urged caution. "[It] is important to point out that this treatment must be only be given under close medical supervision as we are giving peanut to children who are allergic to peanut, and children did have allergic reactions," said Tang in a press release. "Nevertheless, the likelihood of success was high—if nine children were given probiotic and peanut therapy, seven would benefit."