An Australian Rotary Health PhD Scholar is hoping to increase knowledge on long-term solutions and preventative measures for peanut allergy – which currently has the highest worldwide prevalence in Australia.

Win Lei (Nicki) Shwe Yee from the University of New South Wales was awarded the Australian Rotary Health/Rotary Club of Kew Food Allergy Funding Partner PhD Scholarship this year to examine peanut specific antibody diversity and affinity during peanut oral immunotherapy (OIT).

“Recent study outcomes have shown that allergen-specific immunotherapy – specifically oral immunotherapy – has shown to be a promising approach to tackling peanut allergy,” Nicki said.

“However, studies to date have shown that the use of standard allergen extracts or native foods have failed to generate high rates of long-term tolerance following the cessation of OIT and have unpredictable side-effects.”

In her research, Nicki hopes to provide long term solutions for patients with peanut allergy by understanding the specific mechanisms of action of OIT and the ability to predict responses to therapy.

“This research will extensively study the activities of two antibodies, IgE and IgG4, which will be monitored during the course of immunotherapy as well as following the cessation of immunotherapy in individuals developing desensitisation, as well as tolerance induction,”

This project will also investigate the plasma oxidative stress as a potential biomarker for an OIT outcome predictor.

“Understanding the role of oxidative stress will likely assist us in developing a dietary intervention for peanut allergy prevention.”

Nicki believes this research will largely assist in the capacity for better monitoring during OIT as well as differentiating how tolerance versus desensitisation arises.

“And most importantly, the ability to select allergic patients most likely to respond to OIT,” Nicki said.

“I hope to better understand the complex nature of peanut allergy, which threatens the quality of life of many young Australians, and thereby contribute to long-term solutions.”

Peanut allergy, with 3.1% prevalence in infants, is the most common food allergy in children in Australia.

We wish Nicki all the best with her research.


Media contact: Jessica Cooper – (02) 8837 1900 or