(CBS) — Peanut sensitivity is one of the leading causes of fatal food reactions in the U.S. For now, patients can only carry an EpiPen and strictly avoid peanuts.

However, researchers at Lurie Children’s Hospital are conducting a study that may give patients other options in the future. But does it work?

“I just tasted it, but I felt like my throat was closing up,” says 9-year-old Cooper Coletto.

Just one bite of a peanut butter cookie five years ago and “he actually had to be rushed to the hospital to be administered Epinepherin,” Cooper’s mom, Brenda Coletto, says. “It’s very difficult, obviously, and difficult for him and quite frightening for everybody involved.”

But now it seems the severity of Cooper Coletto’s peanut allergy may be changing. He wears a patch every day that actually contains a peanut protein, designed to desensitize his allergic reaction. This is all part of an ongoing study at Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.

“The greatest effect was found for the patch that had the highest concentration of peanut proteins. Then, when you focus the results for the different age groups, young kids had a significant increase in the amount of peanut that they could consume at the end of 12 months of wearing the patch,” says Dr. Jacqueline Pongracic of Lurie Children’s Hospital.

It works best in kids in the 6-to-11 age group, which includes Cooper.

“For us, the trial has been sort of groundbreaking. He seems to tolerate peanuts more than he has in the past, which is really phenomenal. It helps me let my guard down a little bit,” Brenda Coletto says.

During testing, Cooper can eat half of a serving of peanut mousse, which is equivalent to about 4 peanuts.

“Typically it takes a very small amount of peanut to induce a reaction in a person. By establishing that they can consume more than what they could before … they may not have to live in fear that they could have a severe reaction. It appears that they’re protected from that,” Pongracic says.

The first part of the study showed improvement among all age groups, although the younger kids showed more of a positive reaction.

More research is needed so it’s not known when the patch might be available.  The second part of the study runs through June 2016.


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