Bi-partisan inquiry agrees to action to prevent, cure and manage children’s food allergies
A bi-partisan Federal parliamentary inquiry has accepted all recommendations put forward by the Centre for Food and Allergy Research (CFAR), hosted at Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI), to help prevent, cure and manage food allergies.
Last November, CFAR researchers contributed to a federal health committee inquiry on the rise in allergies in Australia, the impacts of severe allergic reactions, called anaphylaxis, and access to services for allergy sufferers.
Allergies are an increasingly common reality for those working in early childhood education and care settings, with severe food allergy now affecting one in ten infants and one child in every classroom for older children.
MCRI Associate Professor Kirsten Perrett noted that Australia has the highest reported rates of food allergy in the world, which was a virtually non-existent problem 30 years ago.
“Anaphylaxis hospital admissions continue to rise and obviously we are very concerned about rising fatalities,” she said. “Despite this growing health and economic burden there are no treatment options approved for routine care and avoidance of allergen remains the only management strategy.”
Earlier this month, the inquiry announced its support for the following recommendations:
- Establishing a National Centre for Allergies and Anaphylaxis in Australia
- Clinical research into food allergy treatments including head-to-head trials of food based oral immunotherapy
- Establishing a national register of anaphylaxis episodes.
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.
Although food oral immunotherapy trials globally have demonstrated temporary desensitisation in most participants, there were still significant safety concerns according to Associate Professor Perrett.
“We believe that these treatments, while promising, are not yet ready to be offered in the clinic. Previous trials have taught us a lot, and some of these treatments are now ready to be rigorously trialled in Australia head- to-head, as recommended by the Inquiry, in a controlled and monitored clinical trial program,” she said.
She welcomed the announcement as “a big step forward” towards understanding why food allergies and anaphylaxis were on the rise, how to prevent future cases and find effective treatments for people with existing food allergies.
“Expanding CFAR to become an ongoing National Centre for Allergies and Anaphylaxis, as recommended by the inquiry, would enable continued evidence generation and its rapid translation into practice to optimise prevention and treatment strategies and ultimately food allergy eradication,” Dr Jennifer Koplin, Director of CFAR said.
A number of strategies to reduce food allergy are currently being evaluated in large clinical trials led by CFAR researchers across Australia, with results becoming available over the next one to three years.
Dr Mike Freelander MP, Deputy Chair of the Inquiry, said “This was a very comprehensive, bipartisan report into allergies and anaphylaxis. It is now vitally important that the recommendations of our report are acted upon, in particular the development of Centres of Excellence to investigate the causes of and management of allergies and anaphylaxis in Australia. I am very grateful for all of those involved in the report, and thankful for all of the submissions from families, researchers and clinicians alike. I am committed to making sure the report is acted upon.”
To find out more about the diagnosis, management and prevention of allergies listen to the Allergies Podcast here.