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The findings also suggest that many individuals who report peanut allergies and experience potentially severe allergic reactions are not obtaining clinical diagnosis of their allergies.
New research has found that peanut allergies affect more American adults than previously believed, with about 1 in 6 adults developing the allergy after age 18.
Peanut allergies affect at least 4.5 million adults in the United States but is often considered a pediatric concern according to a press release. For example, the study authors pointed out that the FDA approved a peanut allergy therapy for initiation in pediatric patients between the ages of 4 and 17 in 2020, although there are currently no FDA-approved therapies for patients with adult-onset food allergy.
According to Northwestern University, the new study provides the first detailed estimates of peanut allergies among adults in the United States, which was previously unknown. The findings demonstrate that peanut allergy may be more common than previously thought, and although young adults are the most affected, peanut allergies impact adults of all ages.
“Currently, the sole FDA-approved peanut allergy therapy—Palforzia—is only indicated for pediatric patients,” said senior study author Ruchi Gupta, MD, professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, in a prepared statement. “Given the high prevalence of peanut allergy among US adults, additional therapies are needed to help address this growing burden of disease.”
The investigators found that 2.9% of adults report a current peanut allergy, whereas just 1.8% report a physician-diagnosed peanut allergy or a history of peanut-allergic reaction symptoms. Furthermore, the researchers found that 2 in 3 adults with peanut allergy have at least 1 other food allergy. This was most commonly tree nuts, but more than 1 in 5 are also allergic to shellfish.
The findings also suggest that many individuals who report peanut allergies and experience potentially severe allergic reactions are not obtaining clinical diagnosis of their allergies, according to the investigators.
“Clinical confirmation of suspected food allergies, no matter when their reported onset, is critical to reduce the risk of unnecessary allergen exposure as well as to ensure patients receive essential counseling and prescription of emergency epinephrine,” said co-first author Dawn Lei, MD, a clinical instructor of pediatrics at Feinberg, in a prepared statement.
The investigators concluded that additional efforts are needed in order to ensure proper diagnosis and management among adults with peanut allergy. Co-first author Christopher Warren, PhD, director of population health at Feinberg, explained that there is a link between lack of awareness about adult peanut allergy and the lack of diagnoses.
“Unlike allergies such as milk or egg, which often develop early in life and are outgrown by adolescence, peanut allergy appears to affect children and adults to a similar degree,” Warren said, in a prepared statement. “Our study shows many adults are not outgrowing their childhood peanut allergies, and many adults are developing peanut allergies for the first time. Worryingly, despite reporting similar rates of severe reactions and annual food allergy-related emergency room visits, patients with adult-onset peanut allergy were less likely to report a physician-diagnosis as well as a current epinephrine prescription.”
Peanut allergy affects even more US adults than children [news release]. EurekAlert; February 9, 2021. https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-02/nu-paa020421.php. Accessed February 11, 2021.