Treating childhood allergies with gut bacteria Australian biotech company Ondek is on a mission to develop an immunotherapy based on the gram-negative bacterium Helicobacter pylori — previously known as Campylobacter pylori — which it hopes to eventually deploy as a new treatment for childhood allergy.
reduced exposure to microorganisms in childhood,
management of these ulcers and helped to generate
termed the ‘hygiene hypothesis’. As explained by
a cure — and subsequently won the two researchers
Ondek founder Professor Barry Marshall, a world
the 2005 Nobel Prize for Medicine and Physiology.
authority on H. pylori, “[when] children aren’t
“Dr Warren saw bacteria in the stomach
s noted by Ondek Chairman Peter
exposed to enough infectious or non-infectious
when he was checking biopsies for stomach
Hammond, there has been “a dramatic rise in
bacteria, the immune system can get ramped up”.
cancer,” Professor Marshall recalled. “He could
the prevalence of allergic diseases” over the past
“They then can become more reactive to all
see inflammation [gastritis] but did not really
kinds of new proteins in their diet or susceptible to
make a connection with bacteria initially. I was
pollen in the air,” Professor Marshall said.
interested in answering the question of ‘how do
few decades. “According to the World Allergy Organization, an estimated 30% to 40% of the global population
In 1982, Professor Marshall and Dr Robin
bacteria survive in the acid stomach?’; therefore,
suffered from some form of allergic condition in
Warren were responsible for the discovery
we were really exploring the wonders of bacteria
2011,” Hammond stated.
that chronic H. pylori infection can trigger
and, as a side effect, discovered that these bacteria
This so-called ‘allergy epidemic’ has been
the development of stomach ulcers. It was a
were the cause of peptic ulcers and probably
linked by various experts to increased hygiene and
breakthrough that revolutionised the medical
14 | LAB+LIFE SCIENTIST - Aug/Sep 2017
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