Networks of Centres of Excellence of Canada
Government of Canada

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Network Legacy: Allergy, Genes and Enviroment Network - Allergen

Funded 2004-2020

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NCE contributions
74.4 million

Number of partners

Partner contributions
122.6 million

McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario

Conditions like asthma, hay fever, food allergies and life-threatening anaphylaxis are sweeping the industrialized world, and Canada is near the top of the list of nations facing a growing problem. Allergic disease affects one in three Canadians and costs our healthcare system and society billions of dollars annually. The launch of the Allergy, Genes and Environment Network (AllerGen) provided a unique opportunity for researchers from across the country and from different disciplines to work in national and international teams, with public and private sector partners, to improve public health and move solutions to market faster. This collaborative effort is also helping Canada address a critical shortage of allergists, immunologists, clinician-scientists and allergy-related health professionals and educators.

AllerGen mobilized a national network of more than 200 researchers, 1,434 active and former students, and nearly 200 partners and collaborators (including universities, hospitals, industry organizations, government agencies, charities, school boards and professional organizations) to map a coordinated response aimed at reducing the occurrence, mortality and socio-economic costs of allergic disease. Together, these network participants represented a critical mass of the resources and expertise needed to generate new preventive strategies, diagnostic tests, therapeutic approaches, medications, public policies and patient education.

Among the results

  • The AllerGen-funded Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) Study of 3,500 children from across Canada continues to generate results from the analysis of data and biological samples. New findings have shown that three-month old infants with low levels of four types of gut bacteria have a significantly higher risk of asthma, making it the first study to establish a causal link between infant gut bacteria and the development of asthma.
  • According to two 2016 studies from CHILD Study data, one-year old children whose mothers consumed fruit each day during pregnancy performed better on developmental testing than children whose mothers did not, and the consumption of artificially sweetened beverages during pregnancy may place infants at an increased risk of obesity.
  • Anaphylaxis has doubled among children, according to four years of data from AllerGen's Cross-Canada Anaphylaxis REgistry (C-CARE). The registry has also helped identify foods that are common anaphylactic triggers (peanuts in children and shellfish in adults), the annual anaphylaxis recurrence rate in children (18%) and a serious underuse of epinephrine auto-injectors.
  • AllerGen investigators have generated new insights into how diesel exhaust and inhaled allergens can provoke molecular changes in the lung tissue of allergy-prone individuals, increasing understanding of how air pollution affects the development and progression of allergic respiratory disease, including asthma.