Professor Barry Marshall won the Nobel Prize in 2005 for discovering that a specific type of bacteria was the root cause of ulcers, throwing out the earlier notion that it was stress causing the problem.
Now, Marshall is leading research into whether that bacteria can play a role in treating food allergies.
Bacteria may control immune responses
The bacterium, called Helicobacter pylori, might be capable of regulating and balancing immune responses in the gut, which may lead to a way to prevent eczema and other manifestations of food allergy in infants and possibly paving the way towards prevention of lifelong allergies in kind.
The Australian scientist and his team believe that the bacterium, which is considered healthy in regulated amounts, is underrepresented or nonexistent in many children due to the hyper-clean environments modern living has afforded. This could indicate that the microbes beneficial to immune system development may be less common in modern society, providing a root cause for pediatric allergies.
The first phase of the Marshall-led research program begins with healthy adults as a control for the dosage testing of the killed Helicobacter pylori. Children will be included in study at a later date. The study is funded by nearly $1 million in grants from the National Health and Medical Research Council and is being conducted at Perth's Telethon Institute for Child Research in Australia.