A new trial has been launched to see if whooping cough vaccine can help combat the dramatic rise in children with food allergies.

The number of Australian children with food allergies has skyrocketed since the late 1990s  and according to lead researcher Associate Professor Tom Snelling, from Curtin University and Telethon Kids Institute, these appear to be getting more severe, sometimes requiring admission to hospital.

Researchers in Melbourne and Perth will investigate whether a type of whooping cough vaccine could provide bonus protection against food allergies and eczema. This project will involve 3,000 babies as part of a $3.9million clinical trial.

The OPTIMUM Study will examine whether a dose of whooping cough vaccine used in many other countries, but not currently in Australia, could boost protection against life-threatening allergies to foods like eggs, milk, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, fish and shellfish.

‘The immune system has to quickly mature in the first few months of life after birth, so it’s more suited to protecting against infection,’ Mr Snelling said.

“Allergies occur when the immune system reacts to everyday substances such as different types of food. We believe that by harmlessly mimicking infections, some vaccines have the potential to help steer the immune system away from developing reactions,” said Dr Snelling.

“All babies should receive a whooping cough vaccine from six weeks old, and then again at four and six months. In Australia, we currently use the ‘acellular’ whooping cough vaccine, while in most countries babies receive a ‘whole-cell’ whooping cough vaccine instead.

“We are trying to understand if using the ‘whole-cell’ whooping cough vaccine can help train the immune system not to react to these harmless substances, potentially protecting babies from developing allergies in early childhood.”

There are currently 250,000 young Australians living with severe food allergy, and up to three in every ten babies born each year will develop either a food-related allergy or eczema.

The National Health and Medical Research Council funded project will involve babies from Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide.

When the children are 18-months-old researchers will assess if they have food allergy symptoms.

Researchers are currently recruiting for children to be part of the trial.

Read more – Researchers Concerned Antibiotics May Compromise Vaccines

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  • I know a toddler who had severe croup. He has been fully vaccinated. Had we not known that his coughing and wheezing was as bad as whooping cough can sound. He had to be propped up to sleep. At least he got a little bit of sleep.

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  • Sounds like this is well worth exploring. Lets hope future research can tell us whether or not it would help.

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  • Hopefully to find some answers

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  • What a wonderful break through this might be.

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  • Good that researchers are working on a cure for allergies.


    • I agree- work on allergies is research that is worthwhile and will impact on so many families.

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  • It doesn’t seem conclusive. More tests would need to be done.

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  • I would love to know what’s causing the rising rate of allergies, so I would be interested to know the result. In saying that, even once this research is complete, more studies will still need to be done to confirm any findings they have.

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  • This is interesting, I haven’t heard about this before.

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  • This is a theory and a trial.

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  • Thanks for sharing ! More research is sure a good thing.

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  • The one thing that bothered me was my 3rd child’s reaction to the whooping cough vaccine. It frightened the hell out of me and he was the only one who was not fully protected. In his mid teens he developed a modified version of it. I never want to go through that again and so many places we had to tell as he was riding buses and doing work experience plus has a paper run. I would prefer food allergies then whooping cough. Glad it is not so bad getting it now.

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  • I’d much rather the pain in the bum of food allergies than a dead child

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  • Always great to do research but I’d hate to see people contracting whooping cough because they were frightened of food allergies before the research is even started.

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  • Yes I agree more research needs to be done the anti Vaxxers will be having a field day
    I would rather my child have a food allergy then not get vaccinated at all and die

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  • It’s sensible to check this out – but the timing doesn’t automatically prove causation.

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