Peanuts are one of the most important food sources in the world, with about 42 million tons produced every year across 100 countries. But for a significant portion of the population, they're also highly dangerous. Peanut allergies are the single most common cause of food-related anaphylaxis death.
But there may soon be a solution, thanks to a group of scientists who have identified the genes responsible for peanut allergies. Because of their work decoding the DNA of peanuts, it may not be long before we have a version of this legume that doesn't give people allergies, reports Phys.org.
The study was spearheaded by scientists at the University of Western Australia in collaboration with several global research organizations including the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics. Peanut allergies are a special problem in Australia, where sufferers make up about 3 percent of the population. That's significant compared to the United States, where only around 0.6 percent of the population experience these allergies.
Aside from allowing those with allergies to enjoy a peanut, the new research also offers the potential to increase crop productivity and nutritional value.
"This discovery brings us that one step closer to creating peanuts that will have significant benefits globally," said professor Rajeev Varshney, who played a lead role in the research. "We will also be able to produce peanuts that have more health benefits."
Peanut allergies are among the worst food allergies, not just because reactions can lead to death but because of how prevalent and persistent they are. There's a reason foods produced with peanuts must often be issued with a warning label. Symptoms can include anything from mild itchiness, facial swelling, rhinitis, vomiting, and diarrhea, to acute abdominal pain, asthma, cardiac arrest and anaphylaxis.