Media Release

24 October 2018

Wooldridge: Pioneering cure for kids with allergies

Wednesday 24 October 2018

Pioneering cure for kids with allergies

Parents of children with allergies often live in fear and worry that their children will come into contact with a food that will cause a life threatening allergic reaction.

That’s why a Liberal Nationals Government will invest $1.5 million to fund a world first Oral Immunotherapy Allergy Trials Program at Melbourne University if elected in November.

This funding will enable hundreds of children to participate in clinical trials in Melbourne and Geelong over a three year period.

Victoria has one of the highest rates of food allergies in the world, with 50,000 children suffering from a food allergy and at risk of anaphylaxis. This represents 10% of infants and 5% of children with a food based allergy at varying degrees of severity.

The most common food allergies are reactions to egg, peanut, cow’s milk, tree nuts, soy, sesame, wheat, fish and crustaceans – which account for 90% of all food allergies.

This life saving Oral Immunotherapy can reduce the severity of the allergy by desensitising patients through slowly introducing small quantities of the food which the child is allergic to under medical supervision. The child continues a daily dose at home and returns for supervision of a gradual increase of the dose every month. The dose is ingested daily for 1-2 years depending on progress of the treatment.

The program, made possible through a $1.5 million future Liberal Nationals Government grant, will be led by Professor Shyamali Dharmage at the University of Melbourne’s School of Population and Global Health and undertake multi-centre clinical trials with the aim of curing food allergies such as peanut and tree nut, cows’ milk and egg. As a University based Oral Immunotherapy Allergy Trials Program, it will be the first of its kind in the world to bring controlled research outcomes to children with food allergy.

The results of this research will have an immediate impact on helping find cures for children with nut and other food allergies and help beat anaphylaxis.

Clinicians in the US are offering oral immunotherapy treatments for peanut and other food allergies and these new therapies appear to be effective, but still require research trials to inform the correct dose and safety profile of the treatment.

Australian families are spending tens of thousands of dollars to travel to the US to receive these emerging treatments for up to 12 months because they are not yet validated by research or offered in Australia.

Only the Liberal Nationals will invest in this lifesaving trial program to keep our kids safe.

Comments attributable to Shadow Minister for Health, Mary Wooldridge:

“This research has the potential to change lives and give parents the freedom to live without fear of the life-threatening consequences of anaphylaxis.

This investment will expand the research base and support Melbourne’s continued global leadership in medical research, and food allergy in particular.

We’re famous for our world leading medical research and a Liberal Nationals Government will make sure that Victorians actually have access to its benefits.”

Comments attributable to Liberal Candidate for Prahran, Dr. Katie Allen:

“This program will ensure families can access these novel and exciting treatments in a safe setting without needing to travel to the US for care.

Developing this capability will enable Australia to lead the way with the development of cures for a whole range of food allergy.”

Comments attributable to Professor Shyamali Dharmage, University of Melbourne:

“I’m delighted to be given the opportunity to lead this exciting program of work for Australia.

After reviewing all of the international evidence and hosting a national round table on Oral Immunotherapy which included patient interest groups, we have reached a consensus that pragmatic trials in Oral Immunotherapy for food allergy are ready for prime time.”