A project exploring the role of the immune system to better understand why some children outgrow their food allergy has been awarded a grant.

Associate Professor Rachel Peters and Dr Melanie Neeland from the Murdoch Children's will lead the study, which has secured a $40,000 Allergy and Immunology Foundation Australia Food Allergy Research Grant.

Dr Neeland said the project would study immune profiles and responses in children with persistent or resolved peanut allergy to improve our understanding of the factors that lead to remission of food allergy.

“We will focus on peanut allergy as it is the least likely to resolve and the most likely to lead to adverse health outcomes,” she said. This information will help determine who is likely to achieve remission and could lead to the development of new treatments.” 

The project will use blood samples from the HealthNuts study. Over 5000 children were recruited at 12 months of age and tested for common food allergies. They returned for repeat food allergy testing at ages four, six and 10 years to determine if their food allergy had persisted or if it had resolved.

Food allergy is a significant public health burden in Australia, with Melbourne reporting the highest prevalence of food allergy in the world, affecting 10 per cent of one-year-olds and 4.5 per cent of adolescents.

“There is currently no cure for food allergy in clinical practice in Australia, and management involves strict dietary avoidance and treatment of allergic reactions as needed,” Associate Professor Peters said. Fortunately, some children will naturally outgrow their food allergies, however, others are left with lifelong disease. At present, we do not know why some children will naturally outgrow their allergies while others do not.”