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New hope could be on the horizon for peanut allergy sufferers

A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests promising results for an peanut allergy treatment in the works. (Courtesy: CNN Newssource)

An estimated three million Americans live with a peanut or tree nut allergy, putting them at risk of accidental exposure that could be life-threatening.

A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests promising results for an allergy treatment in the works.

Peanut powder-filled capsule could be the key to treating peanut allergies. Gradually exposing people with allergies to allergens could reduce their risk of a severe reaction.

Researchers across 10 countries studied 551 participants with peanut allergies between age four and 55. Most -- 496 -- were between ages four and 17.

Three-quarters of the participants received increasing doses of the experimental treatment -- the rest received a placebo. Side effects pushed 11-percent of the participants to drop out of the study.

After a year, each remaining participant took an exit challenge -- eating the equivalent of two peanuts under a doctor's supervision.

Two thirds of child participants tolerated the challenge without a severe reaction. Half of those tolerated twice as much -- a four-peanut dose.

Ten percent of children receiving treatment required an epi-pen during the exit challenge, while 53 percent of the placebo group required an epi-pen during the exit challenge.

Experts warn this isn't a cure for allergies. Patients receiving treatment shouldn't expect to be able to eat whatever they want.

But researchers believe increasing tolerance for peanuts can reduce the risk of a severe reaction.

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