Bone marrow transplants certainly save lives for children with acute lymphocytic leukemia, but they might also cure chronic food allergy. At least for one boy, this was the case. After undergoing a bone marrow transplant, a 10-year-old boy no longer had a peanut allergy.

A Very Unusual Side Effect

“It has been reported that bone marrow and liver transplants can transfer peanut allergy from donor to recipient,” explained allergist Yong Luo, M.D., Ph.D., ACAAI member. “But our research found a rare case in which a transplant seems to have cured the recipient of their allergy.”

At 15 months old, the boy had been diagnosed with a peanut allergy after experiencing whole-body hives and vomiting following peanut ingestion. At 10, he underwent a bone marrow transplant from a donor with no known allergies. Soon after, the boy and his family noticed that he no longer seemed to have an allergy to peanuts. Allergists performed an oral food challenge and confirmed that the allergy was gone.

Genetic Modification and Allergies

“Food allergy is associated with the body’s abnormal production of high specific IgE levels,” noted Steven Weiss, M.D., Ph.D., and ACAAI fellow. “This case, in addition to the previous reports, indicates that genetic modification during the early stages of immune cell development in bone marrow may play a large role in causing allergy.”

Peanut allergies are one of the most common types of food allergies, especially for children. Unlike milk or egg allergies, this allergy tends to be lifelong. Children usually carry a prescribed epinephrine injector with them. “Food allergies are serious and can cause a severe life-threating reaction known as anaphylaxis,” stated Weiss. “It’s important to be under the regular care of an allergist who can perform proper tests and administer treatment.”

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