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Emily Marney and her son, Angus, travelled to the United States back in 2019 to seek treatment for Angus’s life-threatening dairy allergy. Reports from the media indicate that Angus’s allergists in Melbourne, Australia, considered him “too high risk” for treatment in Australia. Emily also mentioned that they never received any follow-up from the Australian allergists even after Angus successfully underwent desensitisation treatment in Atlanta, USA, under the care of allergist/immunologist Dr Ruchir Agrawal.

Angus’s father, Jack, comes from a proud rural dairy farming background in Victoria. In her submission to the Australian parliamentary inquiry into allergies titled “Walking the Allergy Tightrope,” Emily shared the anxiety and desperation they felt while searching for a solution in Australia, knowing that a solution existed across the Pacific Ocean. Living with severe food allergies took a toll on the Marney family, with Emily explaining:

“Because of our children’s severe food allergies, I have been unable to work or start a career. At 27 years old, I will have to apply for an entry-level position, and my retirement savings are minimal.”

Apart from the financial challenges of raising children with food allergies, Emily also wrote:

“One of the biggest impacts of Angus’s food allergies on his life is his choice of a future career. Like any typical 4-year-old, Angus expressed aspirations to become a firefighter, police officer, truck driver, and farmer like his dad. When he mentioned wanting to be a farmer like Jack and milk cows, it broke my heart. How could I possibly tell my child that he couldn’t pursue his dreams because of his food allergies?”

For a day trip to Melbourne to see an allergist after months of waiting for a private appointment, the family typically spent around $1,000 for each visit. Despite these expenses, they still faced a life filled with fear, isolation, and accidental exposures. Emily ultimately found a solution in oral immunotherapy in the U.S., which transformed Angus into a thriving boy enjoying the freedom to eat without fear.

OIT factors for success: Dr Agrawal

During a recent interview with Dr Nina Markovic Khaze (PhD), co-founder of Immunity Group Australia with Dr Douglas Jones MD, Dr Agrawal was asked about the key factors for success in oral immunotherapy. He emphasised that each food allergy patient is unique, highlighting the importance of establishing trust and open communication with the patient, as they are the primary drivers of their desensitisation journey. Dr Agrawal explained that milk and wheat allergies are particularly challenging to treat and that he tailors his approach to each allergen and patient. He doesn’t rely on written protocols and has developed unique testing methods. Dr Agrawal also mentioned combining SLIT (sublingual immunotherapy) and OIT (oral immunotherapy), especially for more challenging milk and wheat cases, with successful outcomes.

Emily’s message to Australian authorities

Emily shared that following their successful OIT experience, the family easily relocated to a dairy farm in Western Australia. She expressed her wish for all Australians to have access to this life-saving treatment at home, emphasising that avoidance is not a sustainable, lifelong option for food allergy families. Emily called once again on Australian allergists, Parliament, and state health authorities to do better and provide the treatment that has proven successful in the United States for over a decade, including actively learning from their colleagues across the Pacific Ocean and inviting them to present their experiences with Australian patients locally.

Angus serves as a testament to the effectiveness of OIT, without the need for expensive biologics, using food as a means to retrain immunity in a scientifically grounded manner. “Remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint”, Emily concludes with a valuable advice for all families and individuals currently undergoing OIT for food allergies.

Immunity Group Australia extends best wishes to Dr Agrawal and his patients worldwide on their food allergy journeys.