Heathfield boy with severe peanut allergy involved in pioneering trials

15th September

A Heathfield Community College student who is severely allergic to peanut is giving hope to others with nut allergies after taking part in a successful trial.

James Redman, 12, can now safely tolerate seven peanuts thanks to a ground-breaking trial at Evelina London Children’s Hospital.

James, from Heathfield, was diagnosed with a severe peanut allergy aged three. He took part in the ARTEMIS trial, which is one of the largest peanut allergy trials ever conducted. It involved being given increasing amounts of peanut protein over a period of two and half years.

By the end of the trial he was able to tolerate the equivalent of seven whole peanuts, meaning that he is less likely to have a severe reaction in the future.

Zoe Redman, James’ mother, said: “The trial has taken a huge weight off our shoulders. We are now less fearful of James having a serious reaction.

“Before he was diagnosed he had a severe reaction when he was three. I was feeding him a well-known brand of curry sauce which contained three percent peanut. He was immediately sick and within a few seconds his eyes were streaming – he started wheezing and his breathlessness was becoming worse by the second. He was going into anaphylactic shock and was taken straight to A&E. Thankfully the doctors were able to treat him with steroids and nebulisers, but it was an extremely scary experience and our first encounter of this life-threatening allergy. 

“James hasn’t had a serious reaction since then but we were told that the next reaction was likely to be worse than the one before, so we were very concerned. I really wanted him to get treatment to reduce the severity of his allergy and I spent lots of time researching different studies that he could take part in. At one point I even considered taking him to the US for private treatment.

“My mother spotted an article about a pioneering study at Evelina London and I contacted the hospital and sometime later we were invited to take part.

“Being involved in the study was a huge commitment for our family. It involved trips to London every fortnight and taking time off school, but the nursing team and doctors were fabulous with James. They gave him lots of support on how to manage his allergy and use his Epipens which we hadn’t received before from our local service.

“James still has a peanut allergy and he will probably have to live with it for the rest of his life, but he is now less likely to have a severe reaction if he is accidentally exposed. Taking part in the trial has made a huge difference to our lives.”

Peanut allergy, a potentially life-threatening condition, has doubled over the last two decades and affects about 1 in 50 children in the UK. The allergy is rarely outgrown and is the most common cause of food allergy deaths.

The ARTEMIS study recruited nearly 200 children and young people aged four to 17 from across Europe to take part in one of the largest peanut allergy treatment trials that had ever been conducted. Evelina London Children’s Hospital recruited the most patients to the study.

James at Evelina London Children’s Hospital

Participants either received peanut allergen protein (AR101) or a placebo powder. Doses were gradually increased every two weeks for a year.

The results, which were recently published in the journal Lancet Child and Adolescent Health, found that more than half of the participants (58%) treated with the peanut protein could tolerate at least three to four peanuts compared to just 2% of participants on the placebo.

Professor George du Toit, paediatric allergy consultant at Evelina London and the study’s chief investigator, said: “This study provides yet more evidence that by gradually ingesting small amounts of well-characterised peanut protein allergy sufferers can increase their tolerance and protect themselves from severe reactions in the event of accidental exposure.

“It means we are now a step closer to an effective peanut allergy treatment and gives hope to the peanut allergy sufferers. The study is also the first to show that this type of treatment can massively improve quality of life for families affected by peanut allergy.

“Peanut allergy can be very difficult to manage, especially for children and young people and many families are extremely concerned about having a severe reaction which can be life-threatening.

“It’s great that the study had such a good outcome for James and was life-changing for many of our families. However, it should not be done without medical supervision as a small number of children did have a reaction to the peanut protein and required medical treatment.”

James said: “Taking part in the study was the greatest opportunity of my life. The nurses and doctors were really caring and great fun. I didn’t mind the taste of the peanut protein as I got to mix it with chocolate pudding which was great. I really hope the study leads to a treatment so that other children with a peanut allergy can benefit.”

The ARTEMIS study was funded by Aimmune Therapeutics which manufactures the peanut protein treatment used during the trial.