Prof Graham Le Gros

Prof Graham Le Gros speaks on Newstalk ZB about NZ's allergy epidemic

20 July 2013

Prof Graham Le Gros

This morning Professor Graham Le Gros spoke to Justin Du Fresne on Newstalk ZB's Wellington on Saturday show about New Zealand's growing allergy rates, and the research he is undertaking into the development of immune-based therapies for treating allergy sufferers. 

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Listen to Prof le gros' interview here         (10.4 MB, MP3)

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The Malaghan Institute's asthma & allergy research, led by Prof Le Gros and Prof Franca Ronchese, received a significant boost last month with the award of $6.2 million funding from the Health Research Council of NZ.

Prof Le Gros' team recently contributed towards the discovery of a new type of 'allergy driving' immune cell in the skin.  This research, which was undertaken in collaboration with Professor Wolfgang Weninger and colleagues at the Centenary Institute, was published in the prestigious scientific journal Nature in April.

Why we need more allergy research

New Zealand’s asthma and allergy rates are amongst the highest in the world, affecting up to 20% of our population.

“We thought we could stop the onslaught of allergic disease by removing the cause – if there was a family history of food allergy, parents were encouraged to delay the introduction of high risk foods,” says Prof Graham Le Gros. “However, since implementing these avoidance strategies, asthma and allergy rates have actually gone up.”

“What we need is a more rational approach, which can only be achieved through evidence-based knowledge about the allergic disease process.”

The collective goal of the Malaghan Institute’s asthma and allergy research is to develop an immunotherapy or vaccine that specifically shuts down the allergic Th2 immune response before it has the chance to cause any damage. The steroid inhalers currently used to treat allergic disease work in the same way, only they suppress all immune responses – both good and bad. This can leave users more susceptible to common infections.

Immunotherapy is a far better approach for treating allergic disease, because it targets the underlying cause of the allergic disorder, not just the symptoms.