Allergies to nuts have been a very long and problematic issue for doctors and researchers. For some people, a bit of the nut or its product may result in reactions. For some, the very smell of the nut can be fatal. Yes, fatal! Ask Laura Hass, whose son Gus, then 14 months had suffered a life threatening bout of anaphylaxis from nut allergies.
People who are allergic to nuts have to be careful of what they eat. They sometimes have to pass up on their favorite items because they contain traces of nuts. There is no treatment for these allergies and therefore researchers at U.S. Department of Agriculture are trying to change the shape of nut proteins so that the antibody immunoglobulin E (IgE) fails to recognize them, and therefore do not bind together to set off a reaction in the human body. The researchers treated cashew nut protein extracts with sodium sulfite and heat. These help to disintegrate the nut protein.
After this, unmodified and modified cashew proteins were mixed with IgE that was taken from those suffering from cashew allergy. The result was that 50% less IgE attached itself to altered proteins. This can reduce the severity of a reaction. The prospect has excited researchers, but as Christopher Mattison, who is a molecular biologist at USDA’s Agricultural Research Service said, “there’s plenty of work to be done before we can extend [this] into … a practical solution.” The binding is yet to be totally eliminated and they can still be quite harmful to those suffering from even the tiniest bit of allergy to nut protein.