A James Cook University scientist is examining ways to reverse the soaring rates of children developing food allergies to common foods such as eggs and prawns.
AITHM’s Dr Sandip Kamath was recently awarded $318,768 under the 2016 National Health and Medical Research Council’s Grants Round for his research into food allergies.
Dr Kamath’s research, Hypoallergenic proteins as novel immunotherapeutic candidates for food allergy has highlighted the problem.
“Food allergy to shellfish and egg is a serious problem in young children that often leads to severe reactions,” Dr Kamath said.
“The rate of food allergy has tripled over the past decade and is a leading cause of food related anaphylaxis in Australia.
“Allergen immunotherapy can help patients develop tolerance to the allergenic food.”
Dr Kamath said he was studying the allergens identified in these foods and modifying them so the immune system was trained to tolerate the allergen without any severe or accidental reactions.
“Such modified allergenic proteins will be tested further for safety and efficacy to be used as therapeutic agents to treat allergic diseases. The incidence of food allergy has increased over the last two decades, but avoidance is the only current preventive measure. This is an important opportunity to develop new approaches to tackle food allergy in children.”
In coming months, Dr Kamath will work in JCU’s Molecular Allergy Research Laboratory with Professor Andreas Lopata and Professor Alex Loukas.
Dr Kamath said the recently-opened Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine research centre was timely, and they planned to establish a process in the Institute to collect blood samples from individuals with shellfish or egg allergies.
“I am very excited for receiving the NHMRC Fellowship since it provides me time to establish myself in this field of research, working with some of the top researchers at JCU, as well as giving me an opportunity to develop new international collaborations. I am humbled having received this prestigious fellowship, since the applications pass through a tough peer-review process, and it signifies the excellent research setup and environment at AITHM and JCU.”
Professor Alexander Loukas will also receive $938,910 for his research into parasitic worms and possible uses for their ‘worm spit’.
“Billions of people in developing countries are infected with parasitic worms, but they have been eradicated from industrialised nations,” Professor Loukas said.
“Humans co-evolved with worms, so their recent removal has deprived us of signals required to keep inflammation in check.
The worm spit, or the molecules that helminths (worms) secrete from their mouths and outer surfaces, enable their parasitic existence.
His project, Helminth secretomes: from vaccines to novel anti-inflammatory biologics, focuses on worm molecules that can be used to develop vaccines to combat these parasitic infections in developing countries, and also promote anti-inflammatory therapeutics in industrialised nations.
JCU’s Professor Jonathan Golledge will also receive $569,219 in continuing funding for his research into developing improved management for peripheral artery diseases.