Food allergy is a major health problem affecting nearly 8% of the Canadian population. Studies conducted by my group and others reveal that food allergy is increasing world-wide, but little is known about why. Even less is known about the most severe manifestation of food allergy, i.e. anaphylaxis. My primary objectives as a physician and researcher in the Allergy-Immunology Division of the Montreal Children's Hospital are to assess how common anaphylaxis is in Canada, to describe its causes and management and to identify factors responsible for the increase in food-induced anaphylaxis.
I aim to answer these important objectives through 3 studies. In the first study, I will assemble a database of children and adults presenting to emergency rooms across the country with anaphylaxis. By better understanding why these patients develop anaphylaxis and examining how they are treated, I will be able to develop more effective ways to prevent and treat anaphylaxis. To identify factors that may be associated with the development of food allergy, my second study is based on a telephone questionnaire. Households were chosen randomly throughout Canada and were surveyed on whether anyone in the home had a food allergy; information on when certain foods were introduced, vaccination, infections and pet ownership were also collected. These environmental factors were then compared between those with and without food allergy; if certain factors were more common in those with food allergy, it is possible that they may contribute to its development. In my third study, I will try to determine what proportion of food allergy is due to genetic factors and what proportion is due to environmental influences. I will assess in what proportion of identical twin pairs (which share 100 % of their genes) and non identical twin pairs (which share 50% of their genes) both have food allergy.