It is being developed by a Western Australian Nobel Prize-winning scientist, Professor of Microbiology, Barry Marshall from the University of Western Australia
‘The drug has the potential to be used as a preventative treatment in a child's early life when signs of asthma or allergies appear.’
Prof.Marshall is developing an oral treatment called Immbalance, which is designed to restore balance to the immune system and desensitize allergic responses.
Australia has one of the highest allergy and asthma rates in the world and over the last 10 years has seen a 10-fold increase in referrals for food allergies, and a five-fold increase in hospital referrals for food-related severe allergy or anaphylaxis.
Asthma is a long-term condition that affects a person's breathing. It is a significant cause of ill health and poor quality of life, in children and in adults.
In Australia, 1 in 10 people, over 2 million people are affected by asthma. Around 41% of the children ages 0 to 14 years have asthma.
In 2013-14, the rate of hospitalization due to asthma was at 165 per 100,000 population. Death rate due to asthma was at 1.5 per 100,000 population in the year 2013.
Food allergy occurs in around 1 in 20 children and in about 2 in 100 adults.
Harnessing the Power of Helicobacter Pylori
"This actually arose from work we were doing on helicobacter, the stomach bug, for which Dr Warren and I won the Nobel Prize a few years ago," Dr Marshall said.
Dr Barry Marshall and Dr Robin Warren were awarded a Nobel Prize in 2005 for their discovery that stomach ulcers can be caused by a bacterial infection.
Helicobacter pylori survives in the body by suppressing the immune system.
Professor Barry Marshall said the drug would harness the immune properties of common bacterium Helicobacter pylori, that naturally resides in the human gut and move the allergic response down into the normal range.
Studies in the USA show children infected with Helicobacter have a 45% reduction in allergies and asthma.
Helicobacter is disappearing, humans in response have become hyper-reactive to allergies.
By putting the Helicobacter back in a safe way, allergic people can be moved back into a normal range.
"By developing an oral product which contains non-viable Helicobacter we can get the immune advantages that Stone Age man used to get by having live bacteria, with none of the disadvantages."Professor said.
Dr Marshall said the drug had the potential to be used as a preventative treatment in a child's early life when signs of asthma or allergies appear.
New medication in powder form
Professor Marshall's company, Ondek, based in Perth and Sydney, has been developing the drug for the past seven years and said it can be formulated as tablets, capsules, liquids or powdered product.
Dr Marshall said it was likely the drug would be a powder that can be consumed by adding it to food and drinks.
"Children could spread the powder on their cereal or put it in a drink and over the course of a few months could supress their allergic response," he said.
"We think it's going to be 100% safe. It won't remove your immune system; it will just take the edge off.It appears when everything is very clean and children aren't exposed to enough infectious or non-infectious bacteria the immune system can get ramped up," Professor Marshall said.
The drug was ready to be manufactured before safety testing could begin on animals and then humans.
It is hoped clinical trials in children will begin in three years and hopes to make Immbalance available within five years.
- Asthma - (http://www.aihw.gov.au/asth)