Developing novel methods for the diagnosis of tree nut allergies

Research Opportunity
PhD students
Department / Centre
Royal Children’s Hospital/Murdoch Childrens Research Institute
Primary Supervisor Email Number Webpage
Dr Kirsten Perrett
Co-supervisor Email Number Webpage
Dr Thanh Dang

Summary With the rapid rise in food allergy incidences, there is an urgent need to correctly identify food allergic sufferers. This project will focus on develop novel diagnostic techniques for tree nut allergy using large population cohorts.

Project Details

Tree nut allergy in children is common, often serious and usually life-long. Recent data from the Health Nuts study (MCRI) has found prevalence of tree nut allergy at age 6 to be as high as peanut allergy (3.1%). Accidental ingestion is common and nuts are the most common trigger of anaphylaxis in Australia. However, despite a plethora of research into peanut allergy, there is an evidence-practice gap in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of tree nut allergy.

Current diagnosis of tree nut allergy is based on clinical history and skin prick testing (SPT). SPT has a high sensitivity but low specificity and is therefore unable to determine in those without a history of a reaction, clinical allergy or tolerance; necessitating specific nut elimination or oral food challenge.

Using the HealthNuts study, the world's largest population-based, longitudinal study of food allergy and in early childhood. At 12-months of age, 5300 infants had skin-prick testing, and those with a positive test proceeded to hospital-based food challenges to assess for food allergy. The cohort has been followed up at ages 4 and 6 years and an age 10-year follow-up is underway. A number of measures including blood, have been collected over the years. Therefore ethically approved samples of plasma, peripheral blood mononuclear cells and granulocytes from tree nut allergic and tolerant children are in storage and available for analysis.

This project will be focused on optimising diagnostic testing for tree nut allergy. Using samples from the HealthNuts study, novel laboratory techniques for use in screening, determining severity and reaction thresholds for tree nut allergy will be explored. For example component-resolved diagnostics using specific IgE and basophil activation testing will be compared to skin prick testing for the diagnosis of clinical allergy or tolerance to individual tree nuts.

Faculty Research Themes

Child Health

School Research Themes

Child Health in Medicine

Research Opportunities

PhD students
Students who are interested in joining this project will need to consider their elegibility as well as other requirements before contacting the supervisor of this research

Graduate Research application

Honours application

Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact a supervisor.

Department / Centre


Research Node

Royal Children’s Hospital/Murdoch Childrens Research Institute

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