Recently, there has been some intriguing research on the potential links between peanut allergies and antibiotic use early in life. Two labs in the United States appear foremost in this research area. One is at the University of Chicago and the other is at New York University. The work by Dr. Nagler and her team have shown that the removal of Clostridia bacteria might be responsible for sensitization to peanut allergen, in a mouse model. Mice models are useful because researchers can document clinical signs of allergy. But the interesting result was that the presence of the Clostridia bacteria appears responsible for gut inflammation that reduces the rate at which the peanut allergen is absorbed into the blood. Other research by Dr. Blaser (Missing microbes fame) at NYU is suggesting that missing microbes may be important in several health issues (rogue bacteria, food allergies). These are exciting directions for future research.

Recently, we launched the future funder campaign for the Peanut project. Future funder is a crowdfunding platform, specific to Carleton University that is linked to peer-review of proposed research before funding requests are made. This appears unlike other crowdfunding platforms where the due diligence might not be upfront. Our research is meant to be complementary to other research being done. The pace of research can be maddeningly slow at times but we are heartened by the research coming out of the two aforementioned laboratories. Our work involves an undergraduate student, Ms. Rozlyn Boutin, whose will track the immunological and behavioral responses of experimental and control mice over time. Experimental mice are exposed to antibiotics and peanut allergen either alone or in combination, whereas control mice have neither peanut allergen exposure or antibiotic administration.

Recently, Carl Zimmer noted on twitter that journalists should not be asked to pick crowdfunding research projects to plug. I can agree with his sentiments. There are many issues with even being in a position to pick the winners. It remains to be seen how peer review is done before and after the crowdfunding campaigns are launched and funding targets are, or are not, met. If our research provides a glimpse into the likelihood of linkages between antibiotic administration and food allergies, it will have been a success and one where we will acknowledge the public support which made the research possible.