Researchers from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) are contributing to a national discussion on the rise in allergies in Australia, the impacts of anaphylaxis and access to services for allergy sufferers.
MCRI’s Dr Kirsten Perrett, in a statement to the Federal parliament’s health committee, said while food oral immunotherapy trials globally have demonstrated temporary desensitisation in most participants, there are still significant safety concerns.
Food oral immunotherapy, an emerging experimental treatment, sees allergic individuals fed an increasing amount of the food they are allergic to with the goal of increasing the threshold that triggers a reaction.
“We do not believe that these treatments are ready to be offered in the clinic setting but these trials have taught us a lot, and we believe these treatments are now ready to be trialled in Australia in a controlled and monitored research setting,” she said.
Dr Perrett said the best next step in Australia would be to establish a food allergy clinical trials program that could compare food oral immunotherapy with other emerging treatments.
She said Australia had the highest reported rates of food allergy in the world, which was a virtually non-existent problem 30 years ago.
Food allergy now affects 1 in 10 infants and 1 child in every classroom.
“Anaphylaxis hospital admissions continue to rise and of greatest concern so do fatalities,” she said. “Despite this growing health and economic burden there are no treatment options approved for routine care anywhere globally and avoidance of allergen remains the only management strategy.”
But Dr Perrett said the Centre for Food & Allergy Research (CFAR), an Australia-wide collaboration of researchers and clinicians, was working to prevent, cure and manage food allergy.
She said CFAR researchers have led the world in understanding the risk factors and prevalence food allergy.
A number of strategies to reduce food allergy are currently being evaluated in large clinical trials led by CFAR researchers across Australia, with results available in the next 1-3 years.
Dr Perrett said Victoria had led the way with an anaphylaxis notification scheme, but improved reporting of severe allergic reactions was urgently required across Australia to improve safety.
She said that CFAR wanted to see the establishment of a National Centre for Food Allergy Research and Anaphylaxis Surveillance.
“This would provide a mechanism for continued evidence generation and rapid translation of evidence into practice to optimise prevention and treatment strategies and ultimately food allergy eradication,” she said.