Professor Katie Allen
Professor Katie Allen is the Theme Director of Population Health and Group Leader of Gastro and Food Allergy at Murdoch Childrens Research Institute.
She is a paediatric gastroenterologist and allergist undertaking research in the evolving field of food allergy. The food allergy burden is immense and ranges from the extreme consequences of anaphylaxis to the everyday restrictions placed on children, their families and the community, and Professor Allen's vision is to prevent food allergy in Australian children.
Katie is an inaugural Fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Science and Chief Investigator on five National Health and Medical Research Council funded studies which all seek to answer parts of the jigsaw with regards to population health and evolution of the new allergy epidemic including gene-environment and epigenetic associations with food allergy.
Professor Allen is also Director of the NHMRC funded Australian Centre of Food & Allergy Research which aims to translate research findings into clinical practice and public health policy to ensure the best outcomes for children regarding food allergy.
- Group Leader, Gastro and Food Allergy, Murdoch Childrens Research Institute
- Director, Centre for Food & Allergy Research
- Theme Director, Population Health, Murdoch Childrens Research Institute
2012: Selected as one of “Ten of the Best NHMRC funded health and medical research successes" for Career Development Award 2006-2011
2012: Fellow of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology
2005: Selected as one of “Ten of the Best NHMRC funded health and medical research successes" for Allen KJ, Delatycki MB* et al. Use of community screening to prevent HFE-associated hereditary haemochromatosis.
Key highlights of Professor Allen's research:
- Discovered that infants who are vitamin D insufficient were three times more likely to develop a challenge-proven food allergy at age one year old.
- Found that the challenge-proven prevalence of food allergy in infants is 10%.
- Demonstrated that early introduction of egg is safe and may even protect against the development of egg allergy – these results have underpinned the revised infant feeding guidelines of the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy and American Academy of Pediatrics.
- Identified that an eczema gene increases people's risk of being sensitive to common allergic foods.
- Found that infants with siblings or a pet dog inside the home were less likely to be egg allergic at age one. The findings provide support for a role of the hygiene hypothesis, in combination with genetic factors, in the development of allergies because contact with young siblings & pets may have a protective effect by exposing children to infections.
- Helped to establish appropriate reference doses for allergenic food residuals (peanut, milk, egg and hazelnut) in food products which has formed the basis of the revised Voluntary Incidental Trace Allergen Labeling (VITAL) 2.0 thresholds now recommended in Australia. Australian industry has adopted these new reference ranges with >18% of all Australian manufactured goods using VITAL 2.0.
- Discovered that phenotyping of egg allergy (baked egg tolerant vs allergic) should be considered in the management of this allergy because it has prognostic implications and eases dietary restrictions
- Identified the use of the serum Ara h 2 test for diagnosis of peanut allergy/tolerance (two-step process (sIgE + Ara h 2)) was more accurate and highly predictive than using one of the tests alone . This reduced the need for oral food challenge by almost two-thirds. The Ara h2 algorithm is in use at The Royal Children's Hospital Dept. Allergy & Immunology and by clinicians around Aust. It has formed the basis of the World Allergy Organisation (WAO) guidelines on use of the Ara h2 diagnostic.
Centre for Food & Allergy Research
The Centre for Food & Allergy Research is a collaboration of Australian's leading experts in children's food allergy and food-related immune disorders. The Centre is aiming to understand the causes of food allergy and initiate public health measures to prevent and manage the condition.
HealthNuts is a population-based study of 5300 (with challenge-proven food allergy outcomes) infants at age 12 months. HealthNuts has NHMRC funding for follow-up at age four and six and is currently exploring the role of early onset food allergy in the development of the atopic march as well as identification of immunological, genetic and epigenetic markers and more recently faecal microbial indicators. These are all hallmarks of food allergy development and resolution. HealthNuts is the largest single centre population-based study of food allergy in children ever mounted.
SchoolNuts is a population based study of 10,000 school aged children (10-14 years) aiming to understand the food allergy epidemic and adverse reactions to food including anaphylaxis in the community.
Peters RL, Allen KJ, Dharmage SC, Koplin JJ, Lowe A, Tang MLK, and Gurrin LC. Natural history of peanut allergy and predictors of resolution in first 4 years of life: a population-based assessment. Journal Allergy and Clinical Immunology. May;135(5):1257-66.e1-2, 2015
Martino D, Dang TD, Sexton-Oates A, Prescott S, Tang MLK , Dharmage S, Gurrin L, Allen KJ and Saffery R for the Healthnuts investigators. Blood DNA methylation biomarkers predict clinical reactivity in food-sensitized infants. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. May;135(5):1319-28.e1-12, 2015
Koplin JJ, Peters R, Ponsonby AL, Gurrin L, Hill D, Tang M, Dharmage S, Allen KJ; The HealthNuts study group. Increased risk of peanut allergy in infants of Asian-born parents compared to those of Australian born parents. Allergy. Dec;69(12):1639-47, 2014
Peters RL, Dharmage SC, Gurrin LC, Koplin JJ, Ponsonby A-L, Tang MLK, Lowe AJ, Robinson M, Hill DJ, Czech H, Thiele L, Osborne NJ, Allen KJ for the HealthNuts study. The natural history and clinical predictors of egg allergy in the first 2 years of life: a prospective, population-based, cohort study. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology Feb;133(2):485-91, 2014
Allen KJ, Remington BC, Baumert JL, Crevel RR, Houben GF, Brooke-Taylor, S, Kruizinga AG, Allergen Bureau of Australian, Taylor SL. Allergen reference doses for precautionary labeling (VITAL 2.0): clinical implications. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. Jan 133 (1): 156-64, 2014
Peters RL, Allen KJ, Dharmage SC, Tang MLK, Koplin JJ, Ponsonby A-L, Lowe AJ, Hill, D, Gurrin, LC. Skin prick test responses and allergen-specific IgE as predictors of peanut, egg and sesame allergy in infants. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. Oct;132(4):874-80, 2013
Dang TD, Tang M, Koplin JJ, Eckert JK, Licciardi PV, Tan T, Gurrin LC, Ponsonby, A-L, Dharmage SC, Allen KJ. Characterization of plasma cytokines in an infant population cohort of challenge-proven food allergy. Allergy. Oct;68(10):1233-40, 2013
Allen KJ, Koplin JJ, Ponsonby AL, Gurrin LC, Wake M, Vuillermin P et al. Vitamin D insufficiency is associated with challenge-proven food allergy in infants, Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology April 131(4): 1109-1116, 2013
Koplin JJ, Osborne NJ, Wake M, Martin PE, Gurrin LC, Robinson MN, Tey D, Slaa M, Thiele L, Miles L, Anderson D, Tan T, Dang TD, Hill DJ, Lowe AJ, Matheson MC, Ponsonby A-L, Tang ML, Dharmage SC, Allen KJ. Can early introduction of egg prevent egg allergy in infants? A population-based study. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 126 (4): 807-13, 2010
Allen KJ, Delatycki MB, Nisselle AE, Collins V, Metcalfe S, Du Sart D, Halliday J, Aitken M-AA, Macciocca I, Hill V, Wakefield A, Ritchie A, Gason AA, Nicoll AJ, Powell LW, Williamson R. Use of community screening to prevent HFE-associated hereditary haemochromatosis. The Lancet Jul 23-29;366(9482):314-6, 2005
- National Health and Medical Research Council
- World Health Organisation
- Isabel and John Hutchison Foundation
- ANZ trustees – DHB Foundation