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A new approach to allergy testing in Australia

Allergy testing in Australia has lagged behind the rest of the developed world with the ability to easily and effectively screen for a wide range of allergies hindered by the lack of a simple broad spectrum finger prick test. 

An AITHM research team led by Professor Andreas Lopata, in collaboration with Westmead Children’s Hospital and Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne, is working to develop Australia’s first wide spectrum finger prick allergy test using assay microarray, which would prove a huge leap forward in allergy tests in Australia, building testing capacity and ensuring resources are better targeted to tackle the problem.

The test provides comprehensive results diagnosing more allergies while at the same time proving significantly less invasive for children being tested.  Assay microarray tests have been used extensively in Europe, and the research team is investigating if such a test could be proven effective in an Australian setting. 

If successful, the test would prove to be an excellent substitute for current methods.  Requiring 200 times less blood than current tests, it is hoped it will provide an easy to administer, highly specific test covering more and providing faster and more accurate results.

 AIP-2 protein successful in suppressing asthma

AITHM is continuing to expand its world leading research into hookworm protein as a potential treatment for inflammatory diseases. 

New research by the Institute’s Dr Severine Navarro has found a protein secreted by hookworms, the AIP-2 protein, suppresses asthma in mice and shows promising results as a treatment for allergies in humans.

The work builds on previous AITHM research into possible treatments for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) using hookworm secretions.  Although very different diseases, both Asthma and IBD have a common defect in the regulation of the immune system, which results in overwhelming inflammatory processes.  The researchers have since found that the hookworm proteins can promote regulatory T cells and suppress pro-inflammatory processes, protecting the gut and other organs such as the airways in the case of asthma.

The study tested a recombinant form of the AIP-2 protein on both mice and human cells.  Mice treated with the worm protein showed an extensive suppression of inflammation after exposure to an allergen.  The protein was also tested in vitro on human cells from people allergic to dust mites, a common asthma trigger.  The research represents an important step forward in the exploration of therapeutic potential of hookworm protein and the development of a pill based treatment for chronic inflammatory and autoimmune disease.