Reducing the adverse impacts of food allergy on children’s respiratory health (Rachel Peters, Tamaia Dandeniya)

Assoc Prof Rachel Peters


Tammy Dandeniya


Associate Professor Rachel Peters (supervisor)

Murdoch Children’s Research Institute

Associate Professor Rachel Peters is head of the Epidemiology Program of the Population Allergy research group at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute. She leads a research program using large, longitudinal, population-based studies to understand the causes and consequences of childhood food allergy and asthma.


Tamaia Dandeniya, PhD candidate

Murdoch Children’s Research Institute

Tamaia Dandeniya is a PhD candidate in the Population Allergy research group at MCRI. She completed her Honours in the United Kingdom and has been based in Melbourne for the past 2 years, working as a Research Assistant for the Tasmanian Longitudinal Health Study (TAHS) at the University of Melbourne.

Project Status: In progress, commenced 2024

Grant Type: PhD Scholarship

Asthma Australia is proud to support the careers of our future asthma researchers! One of the ways we do this is through PhD scholarships to support researchers during their studies.

This research project supports a PhD student to develop in their career and to help create new knowledge about asthma.

Why was funding this research important?

The causes of asthma and reduced lung function are varied. They include genetics, exposure to environmental irritants (e.g. air pollution, tobacco smoke,) respiratory tract infections, caesarean delivery, vitamin D levels, food allergy, eczema, and obesity.

Research by the team at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute has showed that children with food allergy, even if it resolves over time, are four times more likely to have asthma at age 6 years. They also found children with food allergies had reduced lung function at 6 years.

“As I embark on my PhD journey exploring the association between food allergy and respiratory outcomes from childhood through to adolescence, I am motivated that unearthing this relationship will contribute to improving the lives of children living with allergies and asthma. The support and funding from Asthma Australia provides me the opportunity to delve deeper into this vital area of research but also positions me to make impactful contributions to both scientific knowledge and clinical practice, shaping the future of paediatric care and advancing my career as a dedicated researcher in the field.” – PhD student, Tamaia Dandeniya

Recent evidence has also shown that food allergy can be prevented by changing the infant diet. This has been reflected in infant feeding guidelines in Australia and worldwide, which now recommend introducing common allergy-causing foods (e.g. peanut) into the diet by age 1 year to prevent food allergy.

However, we need a better understanding of the relationship between food allergy and asthma. That’s why we are funding this PhD project which will generate new evidence about how food allergy impacts respiratory health. It will help us to identify new modifiable factors to target for interventions, and determine whether preventing food allergy will prevent asthma.

About the research

This project will use existing data from two population-based cohorts of allergy and asthma:

  • HealthNuts
    This is a sample of 5,276 12-month-old infants who were tested for food allergies when they entered the study. The infants were followed up at ages 4, 6, 10 and 15 years to measure food allergy, asthma, eczema, hay fever and lung function, as well as collecting detailed information on their diet, lifestyle and environmental exposures.
  • EarlyNuts
    This is a sample of 1,933 12-month-old infants who were tested for allergies as babies. The infants are being followed up at 6 years to measure food allergy, asthma and lung function.

The PhD student will use data from these cohorts to:

  1. Explore whether the association between food allergy in infants and later asthma or poor lung function, continues into adolescence
  2. Understand whether modifying infant diet to prevent food allergy can prevent asthma in children
  3. Identify the risk factors for developing asthma and having poor lung function among children with food allergy.

“A better understanding of the relationship between food allergy and asthma is urgently needed to inform disease prediction, prevention, and management. I am grateful for the support from Asthma Australia to advance this research. Findings from this PhD project will have a meaningful impact on the lives of children living with allergies and asthma.” Associate Professor Rachel Peters