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Food allergy researchers acknowledged

Institute News
Friday, December 11, 2020 - 12:24pm

Two Murdoch Children’s Research Institute researchers have been awarded grants to support their work into preventing food allergies in children. 

Associate Professor Kirsten Perrett and Dr Vicki McWilliam have been recognised by the Allergy and Immunology Foundation of Australasia (AIFA).

The AIFA Food Allergy Research Grant of $40,000 was awarded to Associate Professor Perrett for her study testing the effectiveness of oral immunotherapy (OIT) in young children with multi-nut allergies. 

Associate Professor Perrett’s pilot study is the first step toward achieving the vision of eradicating food allergy before school age.  

“The significant mental, physical and financial burdens of food allergy are even greater for those with allergies to multiple foods,” she said. “Nut (peanut and tree nut) allergies are the most common food allergies in children, are usually life-long and are the most frequent cause of anaphylaxis and food allergy death. 

“OIT is a promising experimental treatment for food allergy, but there are concerns that the benefits may not be permanent and may be outweighed by safety risks. This trial has been specifically designed to harness the unique immune ‘flexibility’ of young children to achieve lasting benefits, using low dose OIT to improve safety.” 

Dr McWilliam, was awarded the AIFA Food Allergy Research Grant (supported by DBV Technologies) of $10,000 for her study into potentially preventing the development of long-term cow’s milk allergy in children.  

Dr McWilliam’s pilot study will inform the development of the first randomised-controlled trial to explore the role of a home-based, dietitian supervised “milk ladder “approach for the treatment of IgE mediated milk allergy in infants.

“Current management of IgE mediated cow’s milk allergy is the avoidance of all forms of milk with reintroduction reliant on annual allergy surveillance via hospital-based allergy testing and challenges,” she said. “This often results in children excluding milk and milk products until two-five years of age with significant impacts on quality of life, growth and nutrition.  

“This study has the potential to improve quality of life and disease burden for patients and families, reduce the healthcare costs associated with ongoing allergy testing and inpatient food challenges, and most importantly the potential to prevent the development of long-term milk allergy and even help resolve cow’s milk allergy.”