Peanut2When the Learning Early About Peanut (LEAP) study was announced last month, the results sparked excitement and controversy throughout the food allergy community.

Some hailed the results, which suggested that consuming peanuts during infancy could help prevent peanut allergy; others urged caution, stressing that parents should not introduce peanut into their child’s diet without first consulting an allergist or pediatrician.

In the wake of the study, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) is assembling a committee to discuss an update or addendum to clinical practice guidelines on peanut allergy, first published in 2010 as part of Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Food Allergy in the United States.

Allergy & Asthma Network is among the stakeholders invited to participate on the committee, which will meet later this year.

“The LEAP study is certainly exciting research, but we must not put children at risk by changing standards of care too soon,” says Tonya Winders, President and CEO of Allergy & Asthma Network. “Parents deserve clear, evidence-based guidelines for preventing and managing food allergies. We welcome the opportunity to participate in this review, representing the millions of families dealing with life-threatening allergies every day.”

The LEAP study, published in the February issue of The New England Journal of Medicine, was conducted in England and included 640 infants between 4 to 11 months of age – some of whom had severe eczema or egg allergy, putting them at high risk for peanut allergy.

Claire McCarthy, MD, FAAP, a pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital, called the LEAP study “huge, amazing news” but added many questions remain.

Writing for the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), Dr. McCarthy notes that “we don’t know how much peanut needs to be eaten to prevent an allergy, or how long it needs to be eaten … We also don’t know if this approach will work for other kinds of food allergies.” 

Dr. McCarthy urges parents of children at risk for peanut or other food allergies to talk with a doctor before giving any peanut products. She recommends the children first undergo an allergy test in a doctor’s office.