The allergy epidemic: what is the Australian response?

Andrew S Kemp, Raymond J Mullins and John M Weiner
Med J Aust 2006; 185 (4): . || doi: 10.5694/j.1326-5377.2006.tb00538.x
Published online: 21 August 2006

Australian researchers are at the forefront of allergy prevention and treatment

Allergic diseases increased dramatically throughout the 20th century, a change that has been described as an “epidemic”.1,2 To mark the launch of the the MJA Practice EssentialsAllergy series in this issue, we review some aspects of the Australian response.

  • 1 Department of Allergy, Immunology and Infectious Diseases, The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, Sydney, NSW.
  • 2 Medical School, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT.
  • 3 Department of Respiratory Medicine, St Vincent's Hospital, Melbourne, VIC.



We would like to thank Dr Peter Smith for providing illustrations for this series.

  • 1. Linneberg A. Changes in atopy over 25 years: allergy epidemic has spread to old age [letter]. BMJ 2005; 331: 352.
  • 2. Isolauri E, Huurre A, Salminen S, Impivaara O. The allergy epidemic extends beyond the past few decades. Clin Exp Allergy 2004; 34: 1007-1010.
  • 3. Robertson CF, Roberts MF, Kappers JH. Asthma prevalence in Melbourne schoolchildren: have we reached the peak? Med J Aust 2004; 180: 273-276. <MJA full text>
  • 4. Peat JK, van den Berg RH, Green WF, et al. Changing prevalence of asthma in Australian children. BMJ 1994; 308: 1591-1596.
  • 5. Hourihane JO, Dean TP, Warner JO. Peanut allergy in relation to heredity, maternal diet, and other atopic diseases: results of a questionnaire survey, skin prick testing, and food challenges. BMJ 1996; 313: 518-521.
  • 6. Sheikh A, Alves B. Hospital admissions for acute anaphylaxis: time trend study. BMJ 2000; 320: 1441.
  • 7. Heine RG. Pathophysiology, diagnosis and treatment of food protein-induced gastrointestinal diseases. Curr Opin Allergy Clin Immunol 2004; 4: 221-229.
  • 8. Kemp A. Hypoallergenic formula prescribing practices in Australia. J Paediatr Child Health 2006; 42: 191-195.
  • 9. Holt PG, Sly PD, Bjorksten B. Atopic versus infectious diseases in childhood: a question of balance? Pediatr Allergy Immunol 1997; 8: 53-58.
  • 10. Tang ML, Kemp AS, Thorburn J, Hill DJ. Reduced interferon-gamma secretion in neonates and subsequent atopy. Lancet 1994; 344: 983-985.
  • 11. Prescott SL, Macaubas C, Smallacombe T, et al. Development of allergen-specific T-cell memory in atopic and normal children. Lancet 1999; 353: 196-200.
  • 12. Smart JM, Kemp AS. Increased Th1 and Th2 allergen-induced cytokine responses in children with atopic disease. Clin Exp Allergy 2002; 32: 796-802.
  • 13. Matheson MC, Abramson MJ, Dharmage SC, et al. Changes in indoor allergen and fungal levels predict changes in asthma activity among young adults. Clin Exp Allergy 2005; 35: 907-913.
  • 14. Peat JK, Tovey E, Toelle BG, et al. House dust mite allergens. A major risk factor for childhood asthma in Australia. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 1996; 153: 141-146.
  • 15. Suphioglu C, Singh MB, Taylor P, et al. Mechanism of grass-pollen-induced asthma. Lancet 1992; 339: 569-572.
  • 16. Marks GB, Tovey ER, Green W, et al. House dust mite allergen avoidance: a randomized controlled trial of surface chemical treatment and encasement of bedding. Clin Exp Allergy 1994; 24: 1078-1083.
  • 17. Eng PA, Borer-Reinhold M, Heijnen IA, Gnehm HP. Twelve-year follow-up after discontinuation of preseasonal grass pollen immunotherapy in childhood. Allergy 2006; 61: 198-201.
  • 18. Abramson MJ, Puy RM, Weiner JM. Allergen immunotherapy for asthma. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2003; (4): CD001186.
  • 19. Brown SG, Wiese MD, Blackman KE, Heddle RJ. Ant venom immunotherapy: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover trial. Lancet 2003; 361: 1001-1006.
  • 20. Drew AC, Eusebius NP, Kenins L, et al. Hypoallergenic variants of the major latex allergen Hev b 6.01 retaining human T lymphocyte reactivity. J Immunol 2004; 173: 5872-5879.
  • 21. Wilson DR, Torres LI, Durham SR. Sublingual immunotherapy for allergic rhinitis. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2003; (2): CD002893.
  • 22. Oddy WH, Holt PG, Sly PD, et al. Association between breast feeding and asthma in 6 year old children: findings of a prospective birth cohort study. BMJ 1999; 319: 815-819.
  • 23. Weston S, Halbert A, Richmond P, Prescott SL. Effects of probiotics on atopic dermatitis: a randomised controlled trial. Arch Dis Child 2005; 90: 892-897.
  • 24. Marks GB, Mihrshahi S, Kemp AS, et al. Prevention of asthma during the first 5 years of life: a randomized controlled trial. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2006; 118: 53-61.
  • 25. Blaiss MS. Cognitive, social, and economic costs of allergic rhinitis. Allergy Asthma Proc 2000; 21: 7-13.
  • 26. Public Health Division, NSW Health Department. The health of the people of New South Wales. Report of the Chief Health Officer. Sydney: NSW Health Department, 1997.
  • 27. Hu W, Kerridge I, Kemp A. Risk, rationality, and regret: responding to the uncertainty of childhood food anaphylaxis. Med Humanit 2005; 31: 12-16.
  • 28. Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy. Anaphylaxis. (accessed Jun 2006).


remove_circle_outline Delete Author
add_circle_outline Add Author

Do you have any competing interests to declare? *

I/we agree to assign copyright to the Medical Journal of Australia and agree to the Conditions of publication *
I/we agree to the Terms of use of the Medical Journal of Australia *
Email me when people comment on this article

Online responses are no longer available. Please refer to our instructions for authors page for more information.