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Food Allergy Linked to Hyperactive Immune System at Birth

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Babies with hyperactive immune cells at birth, detected in their cord blood, are more likely to develop food allergies in their first year of life. The finding, published in Science Translational Medicine (, could lead to future treatments that prevent childhood food allergies.

Prof Len Harrison of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (WEHI) said that the study of the cord blood of more than 1000 newborns “found a link between children who had hyperactive immune cells at birth and the development of allergies to milk, eggs, peanuts, wheat and other common foods in their first years of life”.

Lead author Dr Yuxia Zhang of WEHI said that babies at risk of developing food allergies had activated immune cells at birth. “In at-risk babies, immune cells called monocytes were activated before or during birth. Signals from these cells encouraged the development of immune responses by specialised immune cells called T cells that were predisposed to cause allergic reactions to some foods.”

The research used well-documented food allergy information collected by the Barwon Infant Study (BIS), a collaboration between Barwon Health, Deakin University and the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute.

“There has been a threefold increase in hospital presentations...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.