Food allergy

Food allergy is a common allergic disease in children, with a prevalence as high as 10% in infants under the age of 12 months.

Double-blind oral food challenge (OFC) is a gold standard diagnostic test used in food allergy cases. There are several clinical reasons for conducting an OFC diagnostic test: i) OFC to diagnose a food allergy, (ii) OFC to guide the management of a food allergy, and (iii) OFC to determine if food allergy has been outgrown. However, there are some negatives to the use of OFC. OFC is time consuming and stressful for patients and their families, it can also sometimes induce threatening anaphylaxis, so requires close medical supervision. Increased OFC testing in hospitals and clinics also has a significant burden on medical services in Western Australia.

In this research, we aim to identify biomarker proteins in peripheral whole blood that can predict food allergy phenotypes. These biomarkers could be used to reliably distinguish between positive and negative food challenge outcomes, decreasing the number of OFCs used in food allergy cases.

The study will improve our understanding of genetic and epigenetic mechanisms of food allergy.


This work is a collaborative effort between GOHaD, Curtin University, Telethon Kids Institute and the Perth Children’s Hospital.


  • Telethon New Children’s Hospital Research Fund [2015-2018]: $192,000. “The discovery of biomarkers for predicting oral food challenge outcomes in children with baked egg or peanut allergy”
    CIA Guicheng Zhang, CIB Richard Loh, CIC Susan Prescott, CID Michael O’Sullivan, CIE Nicholas Pachter, CIF Ben Mullins

Selected publications

  • Lee, K. H., Y. Song, M. O’Sullivan, G. Pereira, R. Loh and G. Zhang (2017). “The Implications of DNA Methylation on Food Allergy.” International Archives of Allergy and Immunology 173(4): 183-192. [link]
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