Gastro & Food Allergy

Professor Katie Allen discusses Murdoch Children's' world-leading allergy research

Allergic diseases have risen dramatically in recent times and now represent a major global health challenge. Our research, the HealthNuts study, has shown an extraordinarily high prevalence of food allergy, with up to 10 percent of 12 month old infants having a clinically confirmed food allergy. Hospital data indicate a substantial and rapid increase in food allergy and anaphylaxis, with admissions in Australia increasing by 350 percent over a 10 year period beginning in the mid-1990’s. 

The Gastro & Food Allergy Group, under the leadership of Professor Katie Allen, is one of the leading food allergy research centres in Australia. Our group secured a highly prestigious Centre for Research Excellence grant from the National Health and Medical Research Council in 2012. This grant funds the Centre for Food & Allergy Research.

Our group investigates the natural history of allergic disorders – food allergy, asthma, eczema and hay fever. We investigate the risk factors for allergic disorders, with a specific focus on food allergy. We want to understand when and why food allergy develops in children, and also why is disappears. Further, we are undertaking an exciting new investigation into epigenetic causes and mechanisms of food allergy.

Food allergies are classified as being “immunoglobulin E (IgE)-mediated” or “non-IgE mediated”. IgE-mediated food allergy is associated with anaphylaxis – the most serious form of food allergy. Non-IgE mediated food allergies include eosinophilic esophagitis (EOE), enterocolitis and proctocolitis, Food Protein-Induced Enteropathy (FPIES) and coeliac disease. Our group investigates all types of food allergy.

Specifically, our research looks at three levels of prevention at primary, secondary and tertiary prevention of food allergy:

  • Primary: prevention of development of food allergy
  • Secondary:prevention of adverse events in food allergic children,
  • Tertiary:aiding development of tolerance

Food allergies can have a considerable impact on the quality of life of a child, their family and wider community. Our research will, therefore, have important implications for clinical guidelines and public health policy on the clinical care and management of children with a food allergy.

Group Leaders: 
Group Members: 
Dr George Alex
Role: 
Honorary Fellow (on-campus)
Dr Rhys Allan
Role: 
Honorary Fellow (off-campus)
Deborah Anderson
Role: 
Research Assistant
Sarah Ashley
Role: 
PhD Student
Christine Axelrad
Role: 
Research Nurse
Hannah Bohan
Role: 
Research Assistant
A/Prof Donald Cameron
Role: 
Honorary Fellow (on-campus)
Courtney Cart
Role: 
Project Coordinator
Helen Czech
Role: 
Research Assistant
Prof Shyamali Dharmage
Role: 
Honorary Fellow (off-campus)
Michael Field
Role: 
Research Assistant
Carley Garner
Role: 
Research Assistant
Michaela Gold
Role: 
Research Assistant
Dr Lyle Gurrin
Role: 
Honorary Fellow (off-campus)
A/Prof Winita Hardikar
Role: 
Honorary Fellow (off-campus)
Nicholas Kiraly
Role: 
Occupational Trainee
Dr Caroline Lodge
Role: 
Honorary Fellow (off-campus)
Megan Mathers
Role: 
Project Coordinator
Vicki McWilliam
Role: 
PhD Student
Daniela Mitreska
Role: 
Research Assistant
Dr John Molloy
Role: 
Research Assistant
Melanie Neeland
Role: 
Research Officer
A/Prof Mark Oliver
Role: 
Honorary Fellow (on-campus)
Rachel Peters
Role: 
Research Assistant
Catherine Pizzey
Role: 
Research Nurse
Vivek Rajan
Role: 
Research Assistant
Pedro Remos
Role: 
Research Assistant
Dr Marnie Robinson
Role: 
Honorary Fellow (on-campus)
Tamara Rogers
Role: 
Personal Assistant
Natasha Stoilov
Role: 
Project Assistant
Dr John Su
Role: 
Honorary Fellow
Noor Suani
Role: 
Research Assistant or PhD Student
Dr Dean Tey
Role: 
Honorary Fellow
Leone Thiele
Role: 
Senior Research Nurse Consultant
Hayley Vippond
Role: 
Project Assistant
Dr Annette Webb
Role: 
Research Associate
Dr Giovanni Zurzolo
Role: 
Postdoctoral Fellow

HealthNuts
The world's first comprehensive population-based study of food allergy following 5,300 children in the first six years of life to identify how common food allergy as well as what role it plays in the development of other allergic diseases such as asthma. 

SchoolNuts
Investigates how common food allergy is in 10-14 year olds and when teenagers are most likely to accidentally eat foods they are allergic to.

Vitality
Vitality is a randomised controlled trial assessing whether vitamin D can play a role in preventing infants from developing food allergy.

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