The Paediatric Department at St Mary’s Hospital is known for its incredible clinical expertise as well as the cutting edge research performed by the Paediatric Research Unit. One of the services conducting this kind of research are the Allergy Team, who work on anything from general allergies such as pollen and bee-stings to life-threatening food allergies in children of all ages with funding from COSMIC.
Allergy is one of the largest services at St Mary’s taking around 5,000 patients a year”. The Allergy Team see some of the more complicated cases and is known across the UK for being a ‘Centre of Excellence’ in the field.
The studies conducted by the St Mary’s Allergy and Research Team (SMART) Fund have gone on to make a real difference in the lives of children with allergies, such as the implementation of insect sting immunotherapy. This is a treatment for people who are allergic to bee or wasp stings and is a short course of immunotherapy, which boosts the body’s natural defences to fight the allergens created by those kinds of insects. After this treatment, children are effectively cured of their allergy, and will no longer have such a severe reaction if stung again.
Another focus of the SMART Fund is allergies in infants and young children as well as allergy prevention. The Allergy team played a key part in the Government commissioned pilot programme ‘Allergy Care Pathway’, also known as the ‘Itchy, Sneezy, Wheezy Project’. This project aimed to improve patient experience with allergies by “earlier recognition, accurate diagnosis and effective management”. The outcome of the scheme is “improving the health and quality of life” for children affected by allergies and their families.
Another programme the Allergy Team are involved in is the ‘BEEP’ (Barrier Enhancement for Eczema Prevention) study. This study is in partnership with Nottingham University and has been looking into the link between eczema and allergies. This study is looking into how healthy a baby’s skin is in the first few months of life”, which can affect how susceptible children are to having certain types of allergies, especially food allergies.
The Director of the Paediatric Research Unit Dr Robert Boyle’s primary interest is in the prevention of allergies and because of this he has created a programme called ‘Follow My Footsteps’, which is available to medical students at Imperial College London and is the only programme of its kind. It matches up to 70 students with expecting mum’s-to-be, and follows them throughout their pregnancy to the early stages of their child’s life. This is a great opportunity for medical students to learn about patient interaction as well as the importance of early life and how it can shape our future health.
The Allergy Services at St Mary’s have historically always been on the top of their game; with crucial treatments like allergen immunotherapy being invented here in by Dr William Frankland in 1946.