Vaccine hope for shellfish allergies

Researchers are working with prawns in the search for a shellfish allergy vaccine. Credit: RMIT
Researchers are working with prawns in the search for a shellfish allergy vaccine. Credit: RMIT

A new oral vaccine against shellfish allergies is being developed by researchers at RMIT University.

Assoc. Prof. Andreas Lopata and his team in RMIT’s School of Applied Sciences are working to help find a different method for vaccination against the potentially deadly allergy.

“We want to create a vaccine that people can eat or swallow, rather than inject.” he said.

Seafood allergies affect millions around the world, with up to 50 per cent of Asian children reacting badly to shellfish and other seafood.

These allergies can grow worse as children grow older, and a child with allergic parents has a 30–40 per cent chance of inheriting the condition. It is estimated about one per cent of Australians are allergic to seafood.

The RMIT research team is also using sophisticated high-pressure machinery to test whether allergens can be removed from shellfish, such as prawns.

“We are looking at five types of prawn from outside Australia that are sold to our markets, as well as prawns produced in Australia for the local market and for export,” Andreas says.

“About 70 per cent of Australia’s seafood is imported and this means more species and different processing procedures. It’s not the quality of the seafood, it’s the allergic reaction in some sensitised consumers which is the problem.”

For more information: RMIT University, Gosia Kaszubska, Tel: +61 (3) 9925 3176, +61 (417) 510 735, gosia.kaszubska@rmit.edu.au

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