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Pioneering Natasha Trial transforms lives of children with food allergies

Parents of children with severe milk and peanut allergies have told how their lives have been changed by a pioneering clinical trial.

The Natasha Trial uses daily doses of everyday food products, taken under medical supervision. This can train the bodies of children and young people to tolerate an allergen.

The approach is known as oral immunotherapy (OIT). It is hoped this will allow children with food allergies to live without the fear of a potentially fatal reaction.

The three-year trial is funded by The Natasha Allergy Research Foundation. It is led by researchers at the University of Southampton, University Hospital Southampton (UHS) and Imperial College London.

Natasha Ednan-Laperouse died aged 15 from a severe food allergic reaction.

The £2.5 million Natasha Trial is the first major study to be funded by Natasha’s Foundation, set up by her parents Nadim and Tanya.

So far, a total of 139 children, aged 2 to 23 years, have started treatment on the trial.

It is being run at five hospitals, including UHS. Four other sites are expected to join later.

Hasan Arshad is a Professor of Allergy and Clinical Immunology at the University of Southampton and Head of the Asthma, Allergy and Clinical Immunology Service at UHS. He is Chief Investigator of the trial.

He said: “We must wait until the trial is complete for the full picture, but we are very pleased with the results we are seeing so far.”

Changing children’s lives

Thomas Farmer from Ashurst, New Forest, was diagnosed with a severe peanut allergy when he was aged one.

When he joined the Natasha Trial in March 2023, he could not tolerate even half a peanut.

By January 2024, he was eating 6 peanuts a day – a dose he will keep in his diet.

He is taking part at the NIHR Southampton Clinical Research Facility located in Southampton General Hospital.

His mother Lauren said: “Having food allergies can be really difficult and isolating. As parents, who have lived with managing a peanut allergy for nearly ten years, we knew we wanted to see if there was a way to understand it better and help to manage the allergy.

“Our journey on the Natasha study has been amazing so far. From day one we have felt that our son has been the number one priority throughout, and has had the best possible care given to him.”

She added: “Knowing that Thomas can now tolerate six peanuts a day has taken away so much anxiety around food. It will also hopefully mean that he will be able to eat a wider variety of food as we won’t be so concerned about accidental exposure.

“For Thomas to be able to achieve all this with no medicine – just off the shelf foods – is amazing.”

Thomas said: “I wanted to do the study so I can help people with the same allergy as me and to be a positive role model to others who may be going through the same as me.”

Future treatment

If successful, the trial will provide the evidence for the treatment to be made available on the NHS.

Offering the treatment more widely would be a step forward for people with food allergies and their families, and help to tackle the growing allergy epidemic. Hospital admissions for severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) to food have more than tripled in the last 20 years in the UK, with young people most likely to be affected.

Using everyday products to treat food allergies would also be a cheaper alternative to expensive pharmaceuticals, saving the NHS money.

Tanya Ednan-Laperouse said: “We are so happy that some children with peanut and milk allergies are already seeing the benefits of using everyday foods under medical supervision to treat their allergic disease.

“If Natasha were alive today, this is exactly the type of research she would have loved to be part of.

“This is a major first step in our mission to make food allergies history. We look forward to seeing the final results.”


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