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Scope 49 - Why New Zealand needs this research

2 November 2012

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.


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