Allergy & Immune Disorders

The Allergy and Immunity Group focuses on allergic diseases which are the most common chronic disorders affecting children in Westernised countries, and Pneumococcal disease which is the most common cause of death in children under five years of age globally.

Allergic Diseases

food allergy, anaphylaxis, eczema, asthma and allergic rhinitis
Allergic diseases, such as food allergy, anaphylaxis, eczema, asthma and allergic rhinitis, are the commonest chronic conditions affecting children in Westernised countries. Rates of allergic disease have increased exponentially in recent decades. Understanding the immune mechanisms leading to disease, and identifying novel approaches to modulate immune responses in order to treat or prevent allergic disease are research priorities.  

Researchers investigate immune mechanisms leading to allergic diseases, with particular focus on the role of the intestinal microbiota in early life programming of immune responses. The use of probiotics and prebiotics as novel approaches to treatment or prevention of allergic diseases through modulation of intestinal microbiota and immune responses is also examined.

Pneumococcal Disease

Pneumococcal disease is the leading cause of death globally in the first five years of life. Despite widespread implementation of vaccination programmes, indigenous Australian infants continue to suffer one of the highest rates of invasive pneumococcal disease worldwide.

The Allergy and Immunity group also investigates immune mechanisms that cause increased susceptibility to pneumococcal infection, as well as studying immune responses to pneumococcal vaccines in order to optimise vaccine schedules for high risk populations such as our Indigenous Australians.

Understanding the factors that lead to increased risk of disease and identifying new approaches to improve protection against disease will reduce morbidity and mortality from this common disease.

Group Leaders: 
Christine Axelrad
Role: 
Research Nurse Coordinator
Molly O'Sullican
Role: 
Study Coordinator
Helen Lescesen
Role: 
Research Assistant
Kuang Hsiao
Role: 
PhD Student
Anne Balloch
Role: 
Affiliated Senior Research Officer
Dr Paul Licciardi
Role: 
Affiliated Postdoctoral Fellow

PPOIT study
Probiotic and Peanut Oral Immunotherapy for treatment of peanut allergy. This project evaluates a novel approach to treatment of peanut allergy, with the aim of inducing long lasting tolerance to peanut. Immune mechanisms of tolerance are also investigated.
Please note: Melbourne has reached the quota for this trial and no longer need expressions of interest for the time being. We will notify you when we commence another study

RELAX study
A collaborative study with the Royal Children’s Hospital, Brisbane and the Princess Margaret Hospital for Children, Perth. The study is looking at whether a winter only treatment with Omalizumab (Xolair) will reduce asthma exacerbations in children aged 6 to 15 years. For more information contact study coordinator on 83416229.

OM-85 study
A collaborative study with the Royal Children’s Hospital, Brisbane. The study is looking at whether a winter only treatment with Om-85 will reduce lower respiratory infections in atopic children with asthma aged 6 to 12 years. For more information contact study coordinator on 83416229.

ProVac study
A pilot study looking at the benefits of a probiotic Bio-7 to improve protection against pneumococcal disease in early life when given in conjunction with the Pneumococcal vaccine. This study has finished recruiting but participants are still active on the study.

ProPrems Allergy
This is sub-study within a multicentre trial evaluating probiotic supplementation for the prevention of sepsis in low birth weight very premature infants. This sub-study will investigate the effect of probiotics on prevention of allergic disease in premature infants and the immune mechanisms associated with development of allergic disease. This study has finished recruiting but participants are still active on the study.

Investigation of alternative regimes for pneumococcal vaccination in infants
A collaborative study with the Pneumococcal Research Group aims to identify a cost effective vaccination program, to protect children against this disease. As part of ongoing large clinical trials, our laboratory examines the immune response to pneumococcal vaccine with the ultimate aim of facilitating improved protection against pneumococcal disease through more effective vaccination approaches. This work has been funded by NHMRC, NIH and Gates Foundation grants.

Collaborations: 
  • Professor Pat Holt, University of Western Australia
  • Dr Anthony Bosco, University of Western Australia
  • Prof Willem de Vos
  • Prof Seppo Salminen
  • Prof John Warner
  • Dr Peter Vuillerman
  • Prof Anne Louise Ponsonby
  • Prof Wesley Burks
  • Prof Katie Allen