New Zealand has a problem – and it’s not mollycoddled kids, or over-zealous parents; generation A, the allergy generation has been born. Today’s children are more likely to suffer from food allergy, to have more severe food-induced allergic reactions and are less likely to outgrow their food allergies than their predecessors.
The role of our gut microbiome and our health is a relatively new frontier for immunology. How these trillions of gut bacteria develop, their interaction with our immune system and how this mediates our health is the focus of researchers in the Gut Health Network.
While the possibilities for research continue to widen, there are two main areas for research; how we can prevent food allergies and how we can treat them and reduce symptoms for those with existing allergic responses.
Prevention research concentrates on understanding the development of a strong life-long immune system and ranges from how our gut microbiome are first colonized during birth and infancy, to how we can best support and nourish the internal microbes to which we play landlord. Investigation as to how we can prevent the common-place “allergic march” from eczema, to asthma through to food allergies is also a strong focus.
The second major area for research is to understand the cellular mechanisms of the immune system and gut microbiome in people who have an existing allergy to maximize our chances of developing new treatments.