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Allergy and Ageing: An Emerging Health Issue

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Thu, 29 Apr 2021
Allergy and Ageing: An Emerging Health Issue

Professor Andreas Lopata shared insights on allergies in the Tropics, how these problems impact the ageing population, and how we may deal with allergies.

Over 40 per cent of the world’s population has some type of allergic sensitivity, and age dramatically impacts how we see allergic reactions. What’s more, allergen sources are the most diverse in the Asia-Pacific region. However, there are still many things that we yet need to understand about allergies.

Building upon the International Day of The Tropics webinar on allergies in 2020, Professor Andreas Lopata – Professor in Molecular Allergy, College of Public Health, Medical & Veterinary Sciences and Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine, James Cook University (JCU) – explored the allergy epidemic even further, as well as how it impacts the ageing population, in the second instalment of the Healthy Ageing lecture series.

The webinar revealed that mites present a prevalent and diverse source of allergen. Allergies are increasingly reported in adults and the ageing, and often develop during working age at the workplace. In fact, up to 50 per cent of asthma cases are related to allergic sensitisation at the workplace.

At the same time, food allergies are found to be very common in children and become an increasingly persistent allergy into adulthood – notably shellfish, peanut and fish allergies. In fact, seafood makes up over half of the most common allergens that we see in adults. The reason shellfish are such a prevalent food allergen is based on the similarities to mites, which are the major inhalant allergens in urban environments.

In addition, food allergies in the ageing population are characterised by the ageing gastrointestinal mucosa, compromised digestive properties, and altered microbiota. This is associated with risk factors such as chronic alcohol consumption and chronic infections.

Between 2015 and 2050, the proportion of the world’s population over 60 years will nearly double from 12 per cent to 22 per cent. As the ageing population grows, particularly in South-Eastern Asia and other tropical regions, we face major challenges to ensure that their health and social systems are ready to make the most of this demographic shift. Discovering how allergies impact the ageing population is one way we can help to support and improve the lives of older people.

To better tackle allergies in the ageing moving forward, we need to increase awareness about allergies at an individual level, conduct more studies on the prevalence of Tropical Allergens and research with clinicians and affected groups, and improve medical diagnostics and treatment options.

View the full recording of the webinar "Allergy and Aging - An Emerging Health Issue".

Find out more about the Tropical Futures Institute.

Discover further information on areas of research and research strength at James Cook University in Singapore.


Research: Professor Caryn West [email protected]
Media: Pinky Sibal [email protected]