In response to the dramatic rise in allergies and public health concern, researchers and clinicians from across Australia have developed a collaborative research centre to tackle the growing allergy epidemic.
"Unfortunately we seem to be leading the way with regard to food allergy prevalence,” said Professor Katie Allen of Melbourne's Murdoch Childrens Research Institute. “What we want to do is lead the way with regard to prevention and management. This centre allows us to mount globally important trials."
The Centre for Research Excellence in Paediatric Food Allergy and Food-related Immune Disorders, which is the only one of its kind in the world, was launched this week.
Focus on prevention
Its alliance of leading researchers and centres in Australia will work together to focus on prevention. The team said it hopes to develop strategies to prevent food allergy developing, prevent adverse events in children with a food allergy and to prevent food allergy progressing to asthma.
Research by Murdoch Childrens, the University of Melbourne and the University of Western Australia has shown that food allergy and eczema may be the gateway disease. Infants with a food allergy are five times more likely to develop respiratory allergic diseases later in life.
Over the last ten years, there has been a five-fold increase in hospital admissions for life-threatening anaphylaxis. During the same period clinical referral for life-threatening peanut allergy of all ages has doubled in Australia. These changes are most pronounced in children less than five years, suggesting a causal role for early life determinants. These findings are reflected in unprecedented waiting lists for specialist allergists with most States of Australia reporting waiting lists in excess of 12 months.
Increased immune disorders
In addition, there has been emerging concern over food immune disorders which also appear to be increasing in incidence. Of particular concern is coeliac disease, necessitating a gluten free diet, and Eosinophilic Esophagitis, where researchers say consensus management guidelines are urgently required.
The centre has been funded by the National Health & Medical Research Council, and will provide evidence-based guidelines that will inform public health policy and the clinical care of patients. These guidelines will support doctors, schools and community groups in the care of children with a food allergy.