Food allergies are in focus next week during the national Food Allergy Awareness Week and a James Cook University researcher is urging North Queensland residents to be more aware of what foods can cause a potentially life-threatening situation, the university said.
The event, being held from May 13 to 19, is an initiative of Anaphylaxis Australia supported by ‘Celebrating Research@JCU’, a research division of JCU. The university said it aims to promote awareness of this often life-long disease through education and ongoing research, and a general awareness of food allergies.
A public lecture will be held May 16 at JCU, to give the wider community the opportunity to engage with researchers and clinicians and ask questions regarding allergy, the university reports. A group of scientists at James Cook University, lead by Associate Professor Andreas Lopata, Director of the Centre for Biodiscovery and Molecular Development of Therapeutics, told JCU that food allergies are often overlooked, while other diseases traditionally have more exposure in terms of public information.
“It is estimated that one in 10 babies born in Australia today will develop a food allergy,” Associate Professor Lopata told James Cook University. “There is no cure. Complete avoidance is the only way to prevent an allergic reaction.”
Lopata told JCU that the most common food allergies in childhood were cow’s milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nut, fish and shellfish. “The foods that trigger 90 per cent of food allergic reactions in Australians adults include shellfish, fish, cow’s milk, egg, peanut, tree nut, sesame, soy and wheat. Shellfish and fish as well as peanut, tree nut and sesame allergy are usually lifelong.”
The scientist said that novel diagnostic tests were being developed using cutting edge technology and the Great Barrier Reef’s unique biodiversity. “These rich natural resources give us the opportunity to develop novel therapeutics for food allergy, with a specific focus on seafood,” he told JCU. “The identified allergens are also of great interest to the international science community as allergic reactions to food in the tropics are very different from food allergies in the USA or Europe.”
JCU said that Lopata works together with Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia and researchers from The Alfred and the Murdoch Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, in collaboration with international scientists from Europe, South Africa and Singapore to help protect allergic consumers and patients with this often life-long disease.
“The statistics are undeniable: life threatening allergic reactions – or anaphylaxis – in children aged under four have increased fivefold over the last 10 years,” the scientist told JCU. “Approximately 10 Australians die from preventable anaphylaxis each year and adolescents and young adults are the most at risk representing nearly 70 per cent of total food allergy deaths.”