Scientists have created a vaccine that could be adapted for use in humans who have peanut allergies and may have the potential to reduce even the most severe symptoms.
The team at the University of Michigan's Mary H Weiser Food Allergy Center used a mouse model to test if they could redirect how immune cells respond to the allergens in peanuts and stop the symptoms from occurring altogether.
Prior to the study, mice were chosen that suffered from problems including itchy skin and breathing difficulties after they consumed the legumes.
Each one was administered the new nasal vaccine at a rate of three doses per month. Two weeks after the end of the trial, protection was assessed in the rodents to see how effective the treatment had been.
It was found that just this small amount of the vaccine was enough to protect the mice from experiencing any allergic reactions upon further exposure to peanuts. Importantly, this result was achieved after an allergy had already been established, which the researchers said suggests it has the potential for human use.
Currently, the only way to address food allergies is by suppressing reactions after they have already begun to occur, with treatments including Epi-Pens.
Writing in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, research investigator Jessica O'Konek said: "By re-directing the immune responses, our vaccine not only suppresses the response but prevents the activation of cells that would initiate allergic reactions."
Further studies will now take place in mice to better understand the mechanisms behind the vaccine and see if the protection can be extended even further.
It is hoped this will lead to clinical trials for a suitable vaccine to use in human patients.
Around two in every 100 children and one in every 200 adults have a nut allergy and these figures are on the increase.
Most allergic reactions take place between the age of 14 months and two years and it is unlikely to be something a person will grow out of.
Indeed, only one in five people grow out of a nut allergy and they tend to be those who have the mildest reactions in the first place, meaning a vaccine is sure to be something that is widely welcomed.