Medical News Flow

Food allergy in adults

There is still a lot that we do not know about food allergy in adults. Professors Graham Roberts and Hasan Arshad, two AAIR Trustees, have start started to work on a Food Standards Agency funded project. It is a partnership with colleagues at the University of Manchester and Amsterdam Medical Centre. They are aiming to understand the epidemiology of adult food allergy with a view to informing public health strategies and its clinical management. More details can be found at:

A new treatment for peanut allergy

Peanut allergy affects many people. They are at risk of unpredictable allergic reactions which have the potential to be life-threatening. Aimmune have published the results of it Palisade study in the New England Journal of Medicine. This large, global study tested the ability of their peanut oral immunotherapy drug to stop children with peanut allergy reacting to peanut. In children randomised to the active therapy, 67% did not react to peanut at the end of the trial. In children randomised to the placebo therapy, only 4% did not react to peanut. Some side effects were seen so this therapy may not be acceptable to all families. Full details can be found at

UK Government is reviewing food allergy labelling regulations

After the recent inquests into fatal anaphylactic reactions after consumers had accidently consumed food containing allergens, the government is reviewing the current regulations. The Department of Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Food Standards Agency (FSA) are planning to undertake a public consultation in early 2019. This represents an important opportunity to learn from these tragic deaths and help consumers dealing with food allergies in the future. Professor Graham Roberts, an AAIR Trustee, has recently written an editorial that gives more information about the current discussions around labelling.
Link to editorial is:

Difficulties for people with milk allergy continue despite food labelling legislation

A study from Universities of Southampton and Bath indicates that the eating out experiences of people with food allergies differ depending on the food that they need to avoid. The study highlighted that allergen-based inequities in information provision are impacting on some allergic individuals 2 years after the introduction of EU labelling legislation (EU FIR 2014). Jane Lucas, a Professor from University of Southampton and an AAIR Charity Trustee said “our research has shown that people avoiding milk have particularly difficult experiences when eating out; this group perceived that the provision made for those avoiding other allergens tends to be better. Participants seeking to avoid milk had observed the improvements in information for those avoiding nuts or gluten following the EU Labelling legislation, but had not seen similar improvements in relation to their own dietary needs. They noted that many staff in eating out venues failed to understand their need for avoidance of milk as a ‘hidden ingredient’ within many dishes.’

A link to the open access manuscript:

AAIR news flow. Hans Michael Haitchi, 19 Nov 2018.

Researchers at the University of Southampton are to begin a new study investigating the underlying causes of asthma supported by a British Medical Association (BMA) Foundation or Medical Research – Jon Moulton Asthma Research Grant 2018. The new BMA grant has been awarded to Dr Hans Michael Haitchi, Associate Professor in Respiratory Medicine, alongside Dr Donna E Davies, Professor in Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology at an award ceremony in the BMA house in London on the 06 of November 2018. A short film about the groups work has been shown at this ceremony (Vimeo, YouTube).

The proposed work for this grant is based on the PhD studies of Joanne FC Kelly who recently completed her thesis as part of an AAIR Professor Stephen T Holgate and Southampton Faculty of Medicine PhD studentship from 2014 to 2018. Joanne will now continue her work as Postdoctoral researcher.

With this £64,559 Jon Moulton (2018) asthma research grant the study will test how the asthma gene, ADAM33 (A Disintegrin and Metalloproteinase 33), changes the underlying immune cell microenvironment in the lungs to promote allergic airway disease. Blocking ADAM33 protein has potential to become a new treatment for asthma.

These are the links to the BMA film on Vimeo and YouTube and BMA twitter.

PhD studentship: The contribution of mast cells to rhinovirus infections in asthma.

Mast cells are a rare type of white blood cell that contribute to the symptoms of asthma triggered by allergens (e.g. pollen and dust). However, the common cold virus is a major trigger of asthma exacerbations and we do not know exactly how this occurs. We also do not know if or how mast cells respond to the common cold virus but we do know that these cells form part of an early warning system following infection with bugs (e.g. bacteria and viruses). Therefore this PhD studentship investigated how mast cells respond to infection with the common cold virus to help us understand their potential contribution to viral-induced asthma exacerbations. Charlene Akoto, has shown that mast cells become infected with the common cold virus and are protected from infection following exposure to antiviral chemicals. She has also shown that a chemical released from epithelial cells also protects mast cells from releasing the common cold virus. Dr Charlene Akoto successfully defended her PhD in December 2017 and graduated from the University of Southampton in July 2018.

Research grant: Investigating cellular cross talk in the airway epithelial mesenchymal trophic unit following viral infection

The symptoms of asthma make it difficult to breathe and are made worse from time-to-time (exacerbation) by triggers in the air we breathe. The most common trigger for asthma exacerbations is the common cold virus. At present, we do not know the mechanisms by which viruses cause worsening of asthma symptoms and there is currently no effective medication available. The cells that line the airways are very important as they form a barrier to protect us from the environment. In healthy people these epithelial cells work together with underlying cells in the tissue to maintain healthy airways. However, in people with asthma these cells do not function properly and as a result this barrier is damaged. This project is to investigate how cells talk to each other following exposure to the common cold, using  epithelial cells (the main target of the common cold) and fibroblasts. This project will help us understand how various cell types communicate with each other in the airways and may help us understand the mechanisms by which the common cold makes symptoms worse in people with asthma. Chiara Banas, an integrated PhD student conducted some of this work as part of her rotation project for her MRes and was awarded a travel grant from the European Respiratory Society to present her work at the European Respiratory Society Congress in Paris, September 2018.

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