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19 October 2017

The seafood allergy study is being conducted by researchers from the Molecular Allergy Research Laboratory, James Cook University in collaboration with Prof Dianne Campbell from The Children’s Hospital in Westmead, Sydney. We will be seeking eligible participants, aged 16 years and over to take part in this recruitment in May 2018.

Contact us

Phone: 07 4781 4554 (Ms Thu Le)


Follow us on Facebook (MAR Lab); Twitter (MARLAust); Instagram (molecularallergyresearch)

Project timeline: From November 2017 to December 2018

Plan for the first recruitment (internal JCU): Nov 2017

The first round of recruitment for the Seafood Allergy Study was completed in November 2017.

Plan for second recruitment (community): May 2018

The next round of recruitment will be open to the community in May 2018.

Why study food allergy and why is it important?

Australia is the capital of food allergy in the world. One in ten children and one in 20 adults in Australia are living with food allergy. Food allergy can affect quality of life of the sufferers. In the most severe case, food allergy might put them in life-threatening situations. There is currently no cure for food allergy and food allergy sufferers often have to stop eating certain food or food groups for life.

The triggering foods can change depending on the geographical location. In North Queensland, very limited data about food allergy such as the prevalence, the common allergy triggering food groups as well as food allergy medical services can be found as compared to other parts of Australia. This PhD project will investigate the patterns of seafood allergy in Townsville and local regions. From the data collected, we hope to also find the link between clinical symptoms and the immune responses to provide more insights into this disease.

By participating in this study, you will help to provide the clinicians in North Queensland more scientific data of this allergic disease, so they can better diagnose seafood allergy and advise their patients. You will also receive useful information and consultation from the project researchers, which will help to increase food allergy awareness and support better management of food allergy in the community.

What is an allergy?

In some people, their immune system reacts to a substance (allergen) in the environment (e.g. food, pollen, animal dander and dust mite) or bites (e.g. ants and mosquitoes), stings (e.g. bees) and medications (e.g. antibiotics). This results in the production of allergy antibodies which identify and react with these allergens, activating histamine-releasing cells, then leading to an allergic reaction (IgE-mediated allergy).

Allergic reactions can range from mild to severe. Symptoms of allergic reaction include hives on the body and/or face, swelling of the lips, tongue, eyes or face, vomiting and/or wheezing. Anaphylaxis is the most severe form of allergic reaction and this is when the EpiPen is required.

Reliable diagnosis of an allergy is important

Your GP will probably ask you a series of questions to narrow down the list of likely causes such as foods or medicines consumed that day, or exposure to stinging insects. Although this approach will help to exclude conditions that can sometimes be confused with food allergy, skin prick allergy tests or allergy blood tests should always be performed to identify the triggers.

Sometimes a temporary removal of certain foods from diet under medical supervision is needed. Long term unsupervised restricted diets should be avoided, as this can potentially lead to malnutrition and other complications such as food aversion.

While the current allergy testings are a useful guide in determining whether the person is allergic, they are not always accurate on their own. Unfortunately, the current tests cannot tell whether the reaction will be mild or severe. It is also important to note that only some people with allergy antibodies will develop symptoms. Therefore, confirmation of allergy by consultation with an allergy specialist or clinical immunologist in the combination with allergy testings is very important in allergy management and risk prevention.

Information on allergy tests is available on the ASCIA website.


Who can take part? We would like to enrol eligible members of the community, aged 16 years and over. If you would like to take part in this study, please answer our questionnaire to see if you are eligible.

What will I be asked to do? 

You will be invited to our clinical facility at the Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine within James Cook University (Townsville campus) for a consultation and blood collection. Our clinician who specialises in food allergy will go through a questionnaire with you during the consultation. A volume of 10 mL (2 table spoons) of your blood will be collected at the end of the session by the phlebotomist. This will take about 30 minutes of your time. This is a once-off participation and you do not have to come back for any follow-up session.

What are the benefits of taking part in the study?

You will have the opportunity to talk to the clinician who specialises in food allergy about your health condition. In our allergy research laboratory, we will test your blood against a variety of fish and crustacean species for any potential allergy. The final report with results will be issued to you at the end of the project. All of above are available to you free of charge.

What are the possible risks of taking part?

You may feel unconformable during the blood collection. In case you are feeling unwell after the blood collection, we may ask you to stay for a while (10 minutes). We have a range of juice and lollies ready on the day!

What about confidentiality?

This study has been reviewed and approved by the Human Research Ethics Committee at James Cook University. All information collected will be treated confidentially and will be used for health research only. No information will be released in a way that would allow an individual to be identified.

How can I participate in the study?

We welcome all participants who are currently suffering or have previously had repeated episodes from seafood allergy.

Please contact Ms Thu Le on:

PH (07) 4781 4554


The team