A grant awarded by the Channel 7 Children’s Research Foundation will help propel researchers at the University of South Australia towards eradicating deadly peanut allergies.
Peanuts are one of the most common food allergies and the most likely food to cause anaphylaxis or death. In Australia, there is a particularly high prevalence of peanut allergies with one in 200 adults, and almost three in every 100 children affected.
UniSA Researcher and project lead Dr Preethi Eldi says its new peanut allergy vaccine has great potential to change lives.
“The impact peanut allergy can have on a family is all-consuming, especially given the very real risks to a child’s heath,” Dr Eldi says. “Parents are constantly protecting their child from being exposed to peanuts in all forms – from popular breakfast cereals and school snacks, to biscuits, cakes and even health foods – whether at home, school, or in social situations.”
The new peanut allergy vaccine is formulated by packaging bits of peanut proteins into the Sementis Copenhagen-vectored (SCV) virus platform. SCV is a ground-breaking technology developed by Dr Paul Howley, Chief Scientific Officer, Sementis and UniSA’s Professor John Hayball, Head of UniSA’s Experimental Therapeutics Laboratory.
Prof Hayball says the peanut allergy vaccine tricks the immune system into seeing peanut allergens in a new way, so that the body responds normally instead of generating an allergic reaction.
While peanuts are harmless to most of us, those who are allergic can suffer seizures, swelling in the throat, vomiting and hives when exposed. The body wrongly sees peanut molecules as a threat, and goes into overdrive trying to destroy them.
Globally, the incidence of food allergies and related life-threatening anaphylaxis is increasing, with the World Allergy Organization reporting 220-550 million people are affected.
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