James Cook University is part of a new national approach to fighting food allergies – something that affects at least one child in every classroom and up to 3 per cent of adults.
Professor Andreas Lopata from the Australian Institute for Tropical Health and Medicine (AITHM) said Australia has the highest prevalence of food allergy involving the antibody immunoglobulin E in the world.
“It was virtually non-existent problem 30 years ago, but food allergy is a growing burden on the global health agenda,” said Professor Lopata.
The federal government is now providing $16.6 million to establish the National Allergy Council and $10.2 million for a National Allergy Centre of Excellence. In addition to federal support to establish a network of allergy research, the NHMRC is funding $2.5 million to the Centre of Research Excellence in Food Allergy with specific focus on children.
“The idea is to reduce the incidence and burden of food allergy in Australia and improve health outcomes through new population and precision prevention, intervention and management strategies,” said Professor Lopata.
He said the Molecular Allergy Research Laboratory (MARL) at JCU will lead the Research Workforce development Stream to develop the future health and medical workforce.
“The identification of early intervention and treatment approaches to reduce the burden of food allergy will benefit general practitioners, policy makers and the over one million children with food allergies living in Australia as well as their families,” said Professor Lopata.
Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care Ged Kearney said the funding will save lives.
“It will improve measures to prevent allergies, and their diagnosis and treatment. It will also reduce serious illnesses, hospitalisation and deaths from allergies,” she said.
Australia is known as the allergy capital of the world. Hay fever and allergies affect 4.6 million Australians or around 19.3% of the population.
Chronic sinusitis affects a further 2 million people, or 8.4% of the population.
Drug allergies are reported by 4.7% of the population, while food allergies affect about 10% of infants, 4-8% of children and 2% of adults in Australia and New Zealand.