The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Tuesday that researchers at North Carolina's A&T University have discovered a way to treat peanuts to reduce their allergic effects on people.
The breakthrough has the potential to end the suffering of millions of people with peanut allergies, and could allow them to eat peanuts in any form. USDA said the breakthrough is also showing promise in reducing the effects of wheat allergies.
The research was supported by a grant from USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
"Based on the discovery, NC A&T has signed an agreement with a company to research the marketing potential of hypoallergenic peanut products and get them on store shelves in the near future," USDA said.
One of the researchers, Jianmae Yu, said peanut allergies are triggered by certain proteins, and the discovery involves treating peanuts with enzymes that break down the allergenic proteins. USDA said treating peanuts with food-grade enzymes doesn't change the peanut's shape or lead to a shorter shelf-life.
Yu added that eating treated peanuts might even be used by people to build up their resistance to allergenic proteins in peanuts.
Yu said her next target is finding a way to make it reduce the effects of allergenic proteins found in wheat. "By modifying the technology, her research is finding a significant reduction in the amount of the allergenic protein gliadin in wheat flour," USDA said.
The number of kids with peanut allergies has doubled over the last 10 years, although it's not exactly clear why. According to Popular Science, some believe that roasting peanuts might cause changes that cause allergic reactions, while others say children who stay inside all day lack Vitamin D, which might make them more susceptible to peanut allergies.