Peanut allergy prevalence in US children continues to rise

shelled and unshelled peanutsResearchers at Project Viva, conducted by Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates in Massachusetts, confirmed what we all have been reading about in the news: peanut allergies in children continue to rise. The research was conducted between 1999 and 2002 and found the prevalence of peanut allergies in children ranges from 2-5%, higher than what was previously reported.

Peanut allergy prevalence in US children continues to rise

August 1, 2014

Prevalence of peanut allergy among US children ranged from 2% to 5% based on testing criteria, reflecting higher than previously reported estimates.

Researchers used varying criteria to compare prevalence estimates of peanut allergy among children aged 7 to 10 years participating in a birth cohort not selected for allergy or other disease. Reported symptoms, specific IgE (sIgE) levels, clinical information and combined variables determined peanut allergy prevalence. Enrollment in Project Viva, from Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates in Massachusetts, occurred between 1999 and 2002 in pregnant women who gave birth to 2,128 singleton children.

Questionnaires were administered at 6 months, 1 year and then annually. There was an in-person meeting for 1,277 children; 55% had blood drawn and of those, 87.7% were measured for sIgE levels. Twenty-seven patients self-reported peanut allergy for a prevalence of 4.6% (95% CI, 2.9%-6.3%), which was “higher than previously reported estimates of self-reported peanut allergy among US children of comparable age.”

“Clinical peanut allergy” based on sIgE criteria was determined in 31 patients, yielding a prevalence of 5% (95% CI, 3.5%-7.1%), and peanut allergy defined by sensitization and prescribed epinephrine auto injector was 4.9% (95% CI, 3.2%-6.7%) in 29 patients. In patients with peanut sIgE of at least 14 kU/L with 90% specificity, 18 were indicated for a prevalence of 2.9% (95% CI, 1.6%-4.3%), “which is still higher than previously reported estimates by any criteria,” the researchers wrote.

When the researchers used the strictest definition of allergy, including peanut IgE greater than the 90% specificity decision point and prescribed epinephrine auto injector, 12 patients yielded a prevalence of 2% (95% CI, 0.9%-3.2%).

“The relatively high prevalence rates we observed may reflect continued rise of peanut allergy prevalence in the US, consistent with the rising trend in self-reported peanut allergy. They support that peanut allergy is an increasingly prevalent condition,” the researchers concluded.

Bunyavanich S. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2014;doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2014.05.050.

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