The Hopkins researchers sampled various surfaces in six schools and preschools in the Baltimore area, and found traces of allergen on only 1 of 13 water fountains, and on none of 22 desks or 36 cafeteria tables.
In an effort to simulate and measure potential airborne allergen exposure at schools and sporting events, and on airplanes, the investigators asked the 19 volunteers to eat peanut butter sandwiches, roasted whole peanuts in their shells and shelled peanuts while wearing small air monitors to study the amount of inhaled allergen. They also were asked to discard peanut shells on the floor and walk on them, and open 15 bags of unshelled peanuts and eat them.
The investigators failed to detect Ara h 1 in any of these settings, though Wood cautions that the team's measuring techniques might not have been sensitive enough to find small amounts of allergen. "Future studies that include challenging patients with peanut allergy in these settings will be needed to more reliably assess the risks of airborne exposures," he says.
Peanut allergy is the third most common food allergy in young children and the most common food allergy in older children, adolescents and adults.