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Federal commitment to help prevent, cure and manage food allergies

Institute News
Wednesday, June 17, 2020 - 1:40pm

A bi-partisan Federal parliamentary inquiry has accepted all recommendations put forward by the Centre for Food and Allergy Research (CFAR), hosted at Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI), to help prevent, cure and manage food allergies.

Last November, CFAR researchers contributed to a federal health committee inquiry on the rise in allergies in Australia, the impacts of severe allergic reactions, called anaphylaxis, and access to services for allergy sufferers.

The inquiry has today announced its support for:

•    Establishing a National Centre for Allergies and Anaphylaxis in Australia 
•    Clinical research into food allergy treatments including head-to-head trials of food based oral immunotherapy 
•    Establishing a national register of anaphylaxis episodes

MCRI’s Associate Professor Kirsten Perrett welcomed the announcement as a big step forward towards understanding why food allergies and anaphylaxis were on the rise, how to prevent future cases and find effective treatments for people with existing food allergies. 

Associate Professor Perrett stressed that the key next step was to fully fund and implement these recommendations. 

“Australia has the highest reported rates of food allergy in the world, which was a virtually non-existent problem 30 years ago. Food allergy now affects 1 in 10 infants and 1 child in every classroom,” she said.

“Anaphylaxis hospital admissions continue to rise and obviously we are very concerned about rising fatalities,” she said. “Despite this growing health and economic burden there are no treatment options approved for routine care and avoidance of allergen remains the only management strategy.”  
Food oral immunotherapy, an emerging experimental treatment, sees allergic individuals fed an increasing amount of the food they are allergic to with the goal of increasing the threshold that triggers a reaction.

Although food oral immunotherapy trials globally have demonstrated temporary desensitisation in most participants, there were still significant safety concerns according to A/Prof Perrett.
 
“We believe that these treatments, while promising, are not yet ready to be offered in the clinic. Previous trials have taught us a lot, and some of these treatments are now ready to be rigorously trialled in Australia head- to-head, as recommended by the Inquiry, in a controlled and monitored clinical trial program,” she said.

Dr Jennifer Koplin, Director of CFAR,  said the Centre had led the world in understanding food allergy risk factors and prevalence. CFAR is an Australia-wide collaboration of researchers and clinicians.

“Expanding the Centre for Food and Allergy Research to become an ongoing National Centre for Allergies and Anaphylaxis,  as recommended by the inquiry, would enable continued evidence generation and its rapid translation into practice to optimise prevention and treatment strategies and ultimately food allergy eradication,” she said.

A number of strategies to reduce food allergy are currently being evaluated in large clinical trials led by CFAR researchers across Australia, with results becoming available over the next one to three years. 

Associate Professor Perrett said Victoria had led the way with an anaphylaxis notification scheme, but improved reporting of severe allergic reactions across Australia would improve children’s safety. 

Simone Albert, a consumer advocate who was involved in CFAR’s inquiry submission, said, “My family has lived with severe multiple allergies for more than 14 years. As a mental health professional specialised in anxiety and stress management for families living with this chronic condition, I welcome the Committee’s recommendations and hope that they will be supported and implemented as soon as possible for the benefit of the Australian allergy community.”

Dr Mike Freelander MP, Deputy Chair of the Inquiry, said, “This was a very comprehensive, bipartisan report into allergies and anaphylaxis. It is now vitally important that the recommendations of our report are acted upon, in particular the development of Centres of Excellence to investigate the causes of and management of allergies and anaphylaxis in Australia. I am very grateful for all of those involved in the report, and thankful for all of the submissions from families, researchers and clinicians alike. I am committed to making sure the report is acted upon.”

To find out more about the diagnosis, management and prevention of allergies listen to the Allergies Podcast at www.mcri.edu.au/allergiespodcast

**Ends**

Available for interview: 

A/Prof Kirsten Perrett, Population Allergy, MCRI

Media Contact: 
Tom Keeble                                
MCRI communications manager                 
+61 400 764 084                    
tom.keeble@mcri.edu.au 
 

About MCRI
The Murdoch Children's Research Institute (MCRI) is the largest child health research institute in Australia committed to making discoveries and developing treatments to improve child and adolescent health in Australia and around the world. MCRI pioneers new treatments, trials better vaccines and improves ways of diagnosing and helping sick babies, children and adolescents. MCRI is one of the only research institutes in Australia to offer genetic testing to find answers for families of children with previously undiagnosed conditions.