New ant allergy clinic offers care closer to home

Adelaide Hills residents with Jack Jumper Ant allergies will be able to access potentially life-saving treatment outside of hospital and closer to home for the first time, with a designated clinic now open in Mount Barker at the Summit Health Centre.

Central Adelaide Local Health Network (CALHN) Immunologist, Dr Adriana Le, said the Adelaide Hills is a hotspot for Jack Jumper Ants with the majority of patients with severe allergies living in the area.

“The Jack Jumper Ant, or Hopper Ant, is endemic to the Adelaide Hills and for those with a severe allergy, a sting can cause life-threatening anaphylaxis,” Dr Le said.

“Until now, the Royal Adelaide Hospital (RAH) has been the only site to provide this treatment, which reduces the chance of a severe reaction to less than five per cent.

“The opening of the Hopper Ant Allergy Clinic at the Summit Health Centre in Mount Barker will mean more than 50 patients, who have had to travel to the city each month, will now be able to access the treatment closer to home.

“It will also help to free up treatment spaces at the RAH for other procedures that really need to be performed in a hospital.

“This is one of a number initiatives being explored by CALHN as we look to move services closer to where people live and provide more care in the community.”

The more stings a person receives over a lifetime, the more likely they are to develop a Jack Jumper Ant allergy, which is the second most common venom allergy, after bee stings.

CALHN’s highly effective desensitisation treatment was developed by RAH Clinical Immunologist Emeritus Professor, Robert Heddle.

Dr Adriana Le said the treatment involves giving patients a purified extract form of the venom, starting with a small amount and then building up tolerance.

“Venom immunotherapy is a long-term commitment, requiring weekly injections for the first two months and then ongoing clinic visits every four to 12 weeks for top-up injections for five years or longer,” Dr Le said.

“The treatment is highly effective and offers patient’s peace of mind, because without it, they would need to carry an EpiPen at all times and avoid being stung.”

The initial weekly injections will be completed at the RAH, but patients will now be able to undergo the maintenance course at the Hopper Ant Allergy Clinic in Mount Barker.

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