Centre for Food and Allergy Research

The Centre for Food & Allergy Research is a collaboration of experts in children’s food allergy and food-related immune disorders. It uses the latest approaches in epidemiology, immunology, paediatrics, nutrition, gastroenterology and biostatistics to investigate factors that cause, prevent and improve food allergies.

Why research food allergy?

The number of children with a food allergy or food-related immune disorder has increased dramatically in the last 10 years.

In fact, in 2011 the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute found that as many as 10 per cent of 12-month-old infants have a clinically confirmed food allergy – one of the highest reported rates in the world.

Food allergies can be really uncomfortable and even life threatening.

While mild symptoms include hives and swelling, severe symptoms such as breathing difficulties (called anaphylaxis) can be life threatening. Food allergies also affect a person’s quality of life as they need to be really careful they don’t accidentally eat something that contains the food they’re allergic too.

Researchers don’t yet know why food allergies develop.

We do know that they run in families, but your family history or genetics is only part of the story. Non-genetic (or environmental) factors also play a part.

For further information, including the latest news, events and research findings, visit the Centre for Food & Allergy Research website

Funding

The Centre for Food & Allergy Research brings together leading researchers across Australia. These experts include:

Director

Professor Katie Allen
Paediatric Gastroenterologist and Allergist
Katie is a senior doctor at The Royal Children’s Hospital and a senior researcher at the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute. She is also Director of the Population Health Theme and leader of the Gastro and Food Allergy Group at the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute. Katie is the principal investigator in the HealthNuts and School Nuts studies, as well as a chief investigator in the Barwon Infant Study, Melbourne Atopic Cohort Study, and the Eosinophilic Oesophagitis treatment trial.
Katie’s research focuses on primary prevention and early immunological, genetic and epigenetic factors. In 2010, the National Health and Medical Research Council recognised her research as being among the ten best in Australia. She has also written a Dummies guide book to children’s food allergy with Professor Mimi Tang. Katie is also a Professor of Paediatrics at the University of Melbourne.

Chief Investigators

Professor Anne-Louise Ponsonby
Epidemiologist and Public Health Physician
Anne-Louise is a senior researcher at the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute and the Australian National University. Anne-Louise’s research focuses on large, population-based studies of immune disorders and the impact of environments in the first years of life on our health. Her research into sudden infant death syndrome helped reduced SIDS-related deaths by half during the 1990s.
She is a principal investigator in the Barwon Infant Study and a chief investigator in HealthNuts and the Probiotic and Peanut Oral Immunotherapy trial. Anne-Louise is also a professor and senior lecturer at the University of Melbourne Department of Paediatrics and the Australian National University Medical School.

Professor Susan Prescott
Paediatric Allergist and Immunologist
Susan is a senior doctor at the Children’s Hospital in Perth and a senior researcher at the University of Western Australia and the Telethon Kids Institute. She also heads a research group that focusses on the developing immune system. Susan’s research explores the development of the immune system and the early life factors involved in the development of inflammatory diseases such as food allergy. She is principal investigator in the EPIGEN study and a chief investigator in a range of clinical trials aimed at preventing food allergies (STEP, STAR, QuEST, DOMInO, VITAL).
In 2010, the National Health and Medical Research Council recognised her research as being among the ten best in Australia. Susan has also written a book called The Allergy Epidemic. Susan is a Winthrop Professor and senior lecturer at the University of Western Australia School of Paediatrics and Child Health.

Professor Mimi Tang
Paediatric Allergist, Immunologist and Immunopathologist
Mimi is a senior doctor and Head of the Department of Allergy and Immunology at The Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne. She is also senior researcher and leader of the Allergy and Immune Disorders Research Group at the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute. Mimi is principal investigator in the Probiotic and Peanut Oral Immunotherapy trial and a chief investigator in epidemiological studies of food allergy, including HealthNuts and SchoolNuts.
She has been involved in the development of national guidelines on the ‘Prevention of Allergic Disease’ and ‘Infant Feeding Advice’; Victorian Anaphylaxis Guidelines and Policy for Schools and Children’s Services and state legislation mandating anaphylaxis management in schools and children’s services. She has also written a book with Katie for families called Kids' Food Allergy for Dummies. Mimi is a Professor at the University of Melbourne Department of Paediatrics.

Professor Shyamali Dharmage
Epidemiologist
Shyamali is a senior researcher at the University of Melbourne and Murdoch Childrens Research Institute. She is head of the Research Program in Allergy and Respiratory Diseases at the Centre for Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of Melbourne. She has extensive experience with large epidemiological studies and is principal investigator of the Melbourne Atopy Cohort Study and Tasmanian Longitudinal Health Study. She is also a chief investigator of six other Australian and international population based allergy and asthma studies, including HealthNuts and SchoolNuts. Shyamali is a professor and senior lecturer at the University of Melbourne School of Population and Global Health.

Associate Professor Lyle Gurrin
Biostatistician
Lyle is a senior researcher at the University of Melbourne and Murdoch Childrens Research Institute. Lyle has twenty years’ experience identifying the genetic and environmental factors involved in complex diseases and has contributed to the development of statistical methods that make this possible. He is a chief investigator on a range of NHMRC-funded projects in food allergy and asthma including HealthNuts, SchoolNuts, the Melbourne Atopic Cohort Study and the Tasmanian Longitudinal Health Study. Lyle is an associate professor and senior lecturer at the University of Melbourne School of Population and Global Health.

Professor Dianne Campbell
Paediatric Allergist
Dianne is a senior doctor and Chair of Allergy and Clinical Immunology at the Children’s Hospital in Westmead, Sydney. She is also a Professor and Head of Paediatrics and Child Health at the University of Sydney.
She is a chief investigator in the BEAT, Vitamin D in the management of Childhood Atopic Dermatitis (ADDVIT) study and the BAKE study. Dianne also oversees the paediatric curriculum across the graduate and postgraduate coursework programs in the University of Sydney's Medical School.She is the current Chair of the Paediatric Subcommittee of the Australian Society for Clinical Allergy and Immunology (paediatric subcommittee). 

Professor Susan Prescott
Role: 
Chief Investigator
University of Western Australia
Professor Shyamali Dharmage
Role: 
Chief Investigator
University of Melbourne
A/Prof Lyle Gurrin
Role: 
Chief Investigator
University of Melbourne
Di Campbell
Role: 
Chief Investigator
University of Sydney
Maria Makrides
Role: 
Associate Investigator
Women’s & Children’s Health Research Institute
Richard Loh
Role: 
Associate Investigator
University of Western Australia
Raymond Mullins
Role: 
Associate Investigator
University of Canberra
Mike Gold
Role: 
Associate Investigator
University of Adelaide
Pete Smith
Role: 
Associate Investigator
Griffith University
Ralf Heine
Role: 
Associate Investigator
Murdoch Childrens Research Institute
Jane Peake
Role: 
Associate Investigator
Royal Chidren's Hospital (Brisbane)
Melanie Wong
Role: 
Associate Investigator
The Children's Hospital at Westmead
Brynn Wainstein
Role: 
Associate Investigator
Sydney Children's Hospital
Andreas Lopata
Role: 
Associate Investigator
James Cook University
Sam Mehr
Role: 
Collaborative Investigator
Children's Hospital at Westmead
David Bannister
Role: 
Collaborative Investigator
Rean Tey
Role: 
Collaborative Investigator
Michael Mathai
Role: 
Collaborative Investigator
Victorian University
Giovanni Zurzolo
Role: 
Collaborative Investigator
Victorian University
Debbie Palmer
Role: 
Research Fellow
University of Western Australia
Peter Vuillermin
Role: 
Research Fellow
Deakin University
Caroline Lodge
Role: 
Postdoctoral Fellow
University of Melbourne
David Martino
Role: 
Postdoctoral Fellow
Murdoch Childrens Research Institute
Jennifer Koplin
Role: 
Postdoctoral Fellow
Murdoch Childrens Research Institute
Thanh Danh
Role: 
Postdoctoral Fellow
Murdoch Childrens Research Institute
Jessica Metcalfe
Role: 
PhD Student
University of Western Australia
Vicki McWilliam
Role: 
PhD Student
Murdoch Childrens Research Institute
John Molloy
Role: 
PhD Student
Murdoch Childrens Research Institute
Rosita Zakariaeeabkoo
Role: 
PhD Student
Murdoch Childrens Research Institute
Kristina Rueter
Role: 
PhD Student
Murdoch Childrens Research Institute
Thimo Ruethers
Role: 
PhD Student
Murdoch Childrens Research Institute
Marie Estcourt
Role: 
PhD Student
Murdoch Childrens Research Institute
Courtney Cart
Role: 
Research Coordinator
Murdoch Childrens Research Institute
Hayley Vippond
Role: 
Project Assistant
Murdoch Childrens Research Institute
Collaborations

CFAR is a collaboration of experts from the following institutions:

  • Murdoch Childrens Research Institute
  • University of Melbourne
  • University of Western Australia
  • Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne
  • Women’s & Children’s Health Research Institute
  • University of Adelaide
  • Children’s Hospital at Westmead, Sydney
  • Child and Adolescent Health Service, Dept. of Health, Government of Western Australia
  • Griffith University
  • Children’s Health Queensland
  • University of Queensland
  • Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick
  • James Cook University
CFAR board appointments, committees and memberships
  • 3-generation study of asthma: International Consortium
  • Allergy and Immunology Foundation of Australasia
  • American Academy of Allergy
  • American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI)
  • Anaphylaxis Australia Medical Advisory
  • Asia Pacific Immunoglobulins in Immunology Expert Group
  • Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA)
  • Australian Eosinophilic Oesophagitis support group
  • British Paediatric Allergy, Immunity and Infection Group
  • European Community Respiratory Health Survey
  • European Society of Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition
  • Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN)
  • Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ)
  • Ilhan Food Allergy Foundation
  • Integrated Approaches to Food Allergen and Allergy Risk Management (iFAAM)
  • International Inflammation ‘In-FLAME’ network
  • International Union of Immunological Societies
  • Nestle Scientific Advisory Board
  • NSW Ministry of Health, Department of Education
  • Nutricia Medical Advisory Board
  • Raising Children Network board
  • Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP)
  • Royal Statistical Society
  • Statistical Society of Australia (Incorporated)
  • Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand
  • TVW Telethon Kids Institute
  • Victorian Department of Education & Early Childhood Development
  • Victorian Department of Health: Anaphylaxis Advisory Group
  • World Allergy Organization

For further information, visit the Centre for Food & Allergy Research website

Research project
The HealthNuts study of 5,300 children is the world's first comprehensive population-based study of food allergy with objective measurement of true food allergy. It will enable us to better understand the natural history of allergic disorders including food allergy, asthma, eczema and hay fever and the risk factors for developing these conditions in childhood. The study will have important implications for clinical guidelines and public health policy.
Research project
This project aims to identify the lifestyle factors which are common to children suffering from food allergy, assess the impact of food allergy on risk of asthma and severity and identify factors which likely to modify control of food allergy and asthma.

Barwon Infant Study (BIS)

This study examines the connection between health and development during early life and chronic diseases (including allergic ones)

 

EPIGEN

This study investigates how a woman’s diet during pregnancy affects the development of her child’s immune system and risk of developing allergic diseases such as food allergy and eczema.

 

Melbourne Atopic Cohort Study (MACS)

This study followed children with a family history of allergic disease from birth until 18 years to identify things that increase or decrease the risk of an allergic disease developing.

 

Vitamin D in Allergy trial (VITAL)

This trial tests what impact a vitamin D supplement given in the first six months of life has on the immune system of children who have a family history of allergic disease.

 

Questioning the role of Egg in lactation for induction of Specific Tolerance (QuEST)

This trial will test whether the number of eggs a woman eats during pregnancy affects the amount of egg protein in the blood she shares with her baby or in her breast milk after birth.

 

DOMInO - Docosahexaenoic acid to Optimise Mother Infant Outcome (Allergy Follow-up)

This trial tests whether taking fish oil capsules high in omega 3 during pregnancy helps protect babies from developing an allergic disease.

 

PPOIT – The Probiotic and Peanut Oral Immunotherapy trial

This trial tests whether a treatment plan involving both probiotics and peanut oral immunotherapy (PPOIT) can help build a tolerance to peanuts in children who are allergic to them.

 

BEAT - Beating Egg Allergy Trial

This trial tests whether eating egg for the first time at a younger age (i.e. between four and six months of age) can help prevent egg allergy in babies at high risk of allergic disease.

 

CAKE

This trial tests whether eating baked egg regularly helps children who are allergic to raw egg to ‘outgrow’ or build up a tolerance to it.

 

4-FEED trial

This trial tests whether avoiding cow’s milk, eggs, wheat and soy is an effective treatment for children with eosinophilic oesophagitis – a condition where the tube connecting the mouth and stomach becomes swollen and painful.

 

Solids Timing for Allergy Reduction (STAR)

This trial tests whether eating eggs at a younger age helps prevent infants with moderate to severe eczema (and accordingly a higher risk of food allergy) from becoming allergic to eggs.

 

STEP - Starting Time for Egg Protein

This study tests whether eating egg for the first time at a younger age (i.e. six months instead of 10 months) may help prevent egg allergy.

PEBBLES -

To determine if routine application of an emollient to the skin of infants in early life prevents the development of eczema and food allergy and to investigate if this form of intervention is effective in children with a genetic predisposition (filaggrin null mutation) for having a poor skin barrier and increased risk of developing eczema.

Vitality

This trial examines whether vitamin D supplementation given in the first 12 months of life can prevent the development of food allergy and reduce lower respiratory infections.

For further information, visit the Centre for Food & Allergy Research website.

Research News
Australian-born children with Asian mothers have higher rates of nut allergy than Asian-born children who migrate to Australia, new research has found.