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In March 2024, Immunity Group Australia celebrated its first “birthday” with a series of events in Melbourne and Sydney. Dr Douglas Jones gave a guest lecture in Melbourne on 8 March 2024, which also happened to be International Women’s Day. Many of Dr. Jones’s former Australian patients flew in with their families from all states and territories to hear him speak. He is an American allergist and immunologist who pioneered a protocol for oral immunotherapy with an impressive 92% success rate. The protocol is now being implemented internationally through education and training of medical professionals worldwide. Over the past decade, Dr. Jones’s protocol has successfully desensitised many Australian children in Utah, and they’ve been enjoying food freedom ever since. Here are some takes from Dr Jones’s lecture.

“I’ve had the privilege of engaging with thousands of parents, spanning a wide spectrum of anxiety and fear, and consulting with hundreds of doctors over the past decade who practice OIT in the US, Canada, Israel and other countries. Through this experience, I’ve developed an approach and mindset focused on educating and empowering people and patients.”

“Food allergies are becoming more common worldwide, leaving families susceptible to fear-driven messages and misinformation. Our goal is to educate, empower, and help people see opportunities for enjoying life, rather than just going through the motions. We aim to replace fear with evidence-based information, proper education, and empowerment.” Understanding food allergies involves recognizing the bi-directional communication between the body and food. It’s essential to consider the broader context of the individual and their environment, both internally and externally. Many focus solely on test results, but it’s crucial to understand how allergies manifest within the context of the person’s overall health and surroundings. This includes factors like the microbiome and gut health, which influence how the body reacts to food. The nervous, endocrine, and immune systems also play interconnected roles, constantly communicating with each other. Rather than just relying on tests, we prioritize understanding the patient’s history and symptoms to provide comprehensive care. We take into account the whole person and their circumstances to ensure effective treatment and support.”

The challenge of correct diagnosis

“When it comes to addressing any issue, the first crucial step is defining the problem. This entails understanding the context and history behind it. We must listen closely to the clues provided before diving into various testing methods. Many individuals are advised to avoid certain foods based solely on test results, which can sometimes be misleading. Delaying the introduction of foods can even contribute to an increase in food allergies. That’s why food challenges are incredibly important; they serve as the gold standard in diagnostics. In my private practice in Utah, I’ve conducted thousands of food challenges without a single instance of a patient being hospitalised. There’s a pressing need for more education among allergists worldwide, focusing less on instilling fear and more on providing practical education for proper diagnosis. Conducting food challenges and obtaining accurate diagnoses is crucial to prevent the development of further allergies.”

“To illustrate, data from a subset of my pre-pandemic 36 Australian patients in Utah revealed that collectively, they were avoiding a staggering 332 foods upon their initial visit to my clinic. After thorough history-taking and testing, five patients didn’t require oral food challenges (OFCs) and could immediately begin our oral immunotherapy program (OIT). Of the remaining 31 patients who underwent OFCs, 216 foods were successfully reintroduced into their diets, while 14 were not tolerated and incorporated into their treatment plans. This highlights the significant impact of unnecessary food avoidance on patients’ lives.”

Australians reaching “food freedom”: mothers expressed a heartfelt gratitude to Dr Jones

Parents have expressed gratitude towards Dr. Jones for his unwavering dedication to tackling food allergies through a pioneering approach from over a decade ago which has now become internationally acclaimed. Most recently, he’s been acknowledged for his efforts in educating medical professionals globally through the power of AI. One notable success story involves a child from Victoria, who, under the care of their local Australian specialist, became the first in Australia to reach “food freedom” while previously being anaphylactic to five foods. Over a period of time, the child achieved the ability to eat whatever they want, relying solely on commercially available foods bought in local stores.

Reflecting on their journey, the child’s father likened the experience to being electrocuted multiple times on an electric fence, expressing disbelief that the power had finally been switched off. Their joy was palpable as they savored their first commercially purchased ice cream, sushi roll, and various other food items after finishing their program. This family’s experience serves as a testament to the challenges posed by fear-driven messaging and misinformation for Australian families grappling with food allergies. Despite Australia’s reputation as the “food allergy capital of the world,” this success story underscores the potential for positive outcomes with the right support and interventions – including through the deepening of our Australia-U.S. biotech alliance, and AI-assisted education and training.