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A World Without Food Allergy: Professor Kari Nadeau Presents for the UNIKA-T Speaker Series on Behalf of the Center for Interdisciplinary Health Research (ZIG, University of Augsburg)

UNIKA-T Speaker Series


Professor Kari Nadeau, Director at the Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy and Asthma Research at Stanford University, California, presented her topic “A word without food allergy - fiction or reality” within the scope of the UNIKA-T Speaker Series. Many natural scientists, physicians, and researchers from the interdisciplinary network of Environmental Medicine at UNIKA-T accepted the invitation of the Series Chair Professor Claudia Traidl-Hoffmann and participated in the informative and interactive presentation - either personally in the UNIKA-T seminar room or by web conference. Kari Nadeau’s visit to the UNIKA-T and the University Hospital Augsburg was financed by the Center for Interdisciplinary Health Research (ZIG, University of Augsburg) and the UNIKA-T Support Association, “Friends and Supporters of the Health Sciences in Augsburg e. V. (GEWISA)”. Professor Nadeau is a successful researcher and physician who engages in humanitarian and educational matters on an international level. Her presentation on food allergy contained vital information on successful therapeutic strategies and the latest findings in diagnostics regarding environmental factors and the interaction of the immune system at the skin and gut. An international collaboration is scheduled together with Professor Traidl-Hoffmann in order to gather the results of allergy research and thus to formulate general recommendations for allergic patients worldwide. Eventually, the physician and scientist Nadeau, aims for sustainable improvement of life quality for allergics and their relatives. This motivation is shared by Professor Claudia Traidl-Hoffmann.

For a better understanding of what causes systemic diseases such as food allergy, Professor Kari Nadeau explained the following parameters:

  • Genetics
  • Nutrition
  • Microbiome
  • Environmental Factors
  • Air/ Water/ Soil Pollution
  • Medication

In all these parameters, Nadeau said that diversity was of the utmost importance. A diverse nutrition during the first year of life, for example, showed a protective effect against food allergies. Traidl-Hoffmann commented that a possibly diverse bacterial colonization of the skin, which was formed by the early contact to a natural environment (such as a farm environment) and to the mother, was beneficial to an intact skin barrier.


Progress in allergen-specific immunotherapy - Clinical Research and Translation

Professor Kari Nadeau holds a worldwide reputation for her successes in allergen-specific immunotherapy. This therapy works by administering the allergy causing substance either in form of food (oral), or on the mucosa (sublingual), or by skin injection (subcutaneous). In the course of this therapy, the dose of the allergen is gradually redosed and increased in intervals, so that the immune system becomes able to regather its ability to tolerate the allergen. Nadeau explained particularities of the allergen-specific immune therapy by food administration. For her, the aim was a lasting desensitization against food allergens within the early childhood. To reach this aim, more biomarkers must be identified, i.e. clinical parameters of an allergic person, which includes among others the genetic predisposition and specific antibodies (IgE in allergy) in the blood but also visible features such as eczemateous skin areas.


Environment and Nutrition - The effect of environmental factors on plants and humans

In her function as physician, reported Nadeau, the number of patients with diagnosed polysensitization, which means an allergic reaction against more than one type of food, continues to increase. Especially in adults, other, seldom or before undiagnosed food allergies became the rule. For Nadeau, this is partly caused by air and water pollution, which is a complex problem. These harmful environmental factors could damage the skin barrier. This was a problem that physician Claudia Traidl-Hoffmann also observes during her outpatient consultation in the Outpatient Clinic for Environmental Medicine at the University Hospital of Augsburg.


Multifactorial Course of Disease: Food Allergies Could Start on the Skin

Physicians often speak of the so--called allergic career or atopic march. These terms describe the change of allergic or atopic disease pattern, that starts in early childhood mainly with atopic eczema and food allergies. The march is characterized during adolescence by allergies against pollen and fungal spores and further develops in adults mostly with asthmatic symptoms. Nadeau emphasizes the hypothesis that the sensitization, or the priming of the immune system, is caused by the contact of allergens with the skin. For this, the following mechanisms is at work:

  • skin contact -> allergy
  • gut contact -> tolerance

The following explains the possibility for a prevention of the allergic career:

1. The repair of the skin barrier blocks the contact of food with immune cells
2. The early oral exposure with food


Free Data Exchange is a Precondition for an International and Interdisciplinary Successful Research

Besides the inclusive atmosphere during the discussion, one feature of Kari Nadeau’s talk was the frequent reference to studies where the data and results formed the basis for a successful research. The research community has to listen to each other, according to Nadeau. The more accessible data sets were generated and stored, the more exact and faster research could be conducted. This would enable the publication of unambiguous and clearly verified recommendations for allergics and their relatives. This key message of this important talk at the UNIKA-T Speaker Series has to be further communicated. Traidl-Hoffmann commented by explaining to the audience that an open and clearly understandable scientific communication was her personal concern.



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Kari Nadeau am UNIKA TThe photo depicts (left to right) Prof. Claudia Traidl-Hoffmann (UNIKA-T), Dr. Stefan Gölder, Dr. Michael Gerstlauer and Mrs. Susanne Nau (University Hospital Augsburg), Prof. Kari Nadeau (Stanford University) and Prof. Elke Hertig (University of Augsburg). (Photo: UNIKA-T)

Kari Nadeau am UNIKA T 2The photo depicts (left to right) Dr. Madhumita Bhattacharyya (UNIKA-T), PD Dr. Jens Soentgen und PD Dr. Kirsten Twelbeck (University of Augsburg), Prof. Claudia Traidl-Hoffmann (UNIKA-T), Prof. Kari Nadeau (Stanford University) sowie Dipl.-Geogr. Franziska Kolek, Biostatistician Daniela Bayr and the Aerobiologist Dr. María Plaza (UNIKA-T) (Photo: UNIKA-T)