An often-overlooked allergic condition, eosinophilic esophagitis or EoE, is at the centre of new research investigating whether a natural seaweed product may reduce the occurrence of symptoms.

Griffith University is looking for volunteers to participate in a study, in conjunction with GastroCare Gold Coast and the Marine Bioproducts Cooperative Research Centre, as the arrival of spring in Australia and an expected shift toward an El-Nino weather system favouring an earlier start to the allergy season.

Dr Nic West

Dr Nic West from Griffith’s Central Facility for Genomics and Menzies Health Institute Queensland (MHIQ) is encouraging Australians to seek early treatment for allergic conditions before symptoms worsen and environmental triggers, such as dust storms and the pollen season, occur.

EoE is becoming increasingly prevalent and is a chronic inflammatory response occurring in the esophagus where food becomes stuck after swallowing, and includes centrally located chest pain, Dr West said.

It has been recognised as part of the allergic march in which patients progress from childhood eczema to allergic rhinitis (hay fever) and then to EoE as adults.

Seaweed product, fucoidan, is isolated from a particular species of brown seaweed and has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects in human and animal studies.

Dr Amanda Cox

Senior Lecturer of Immunology, Dr Amanda Cox

Griffith’s Dr Amanda Cox from the School of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences and MHIQ, the lead researcher in the EoE study program, said previous research shows fucoidan supplementation improved mucosal immune health.

By improving gut health, fucoidan supplementation has been shown to have promise for conditions affecting the gastrointestinal system, with the potential for benefits in patients with EoE of interest.

Dr Pete Smith, a medical specialist at the Queensland Allergy Services and a member of the study team, said: There are few treatments for people with EoE and this study provides the opportunity to examine a natural product with no adverse impacts.

EoE has a serious impact on a patient’s quality of life and presents a substantial financial burden to consumers and the healthcare system.

Along with food impaction in the esophagus, food regurgitation, nausea and reflux are common.

EoE requires ongoing monitoring and management with the need for endoscopy and biopsies necessary to determine the extent of disease.

Although typically not a life-threatening disease, EoE can require emergency endoscopy with the risk of choking.

Current treatment options, such as antihistamines, are costly, may not completely resolve symptoms and do not tackle the underlying cause.

Dr West said: EoE now has a prevalence of one in 100 adults across Australia with the rate of patients increasing in line with observations for allergic disease generally over the last 30 years.

Individuals with EoE require extensive dietary modification, drug use and endoscopies that have a significant impact on their overall health and wellbeing.

The research team is currently looking for individuals Australia-wide with a diagnosis of EoE to participate in the trial.

For further information Dr Cox can be contacted at [email protected]

3: Good Health and Well-being
UN Sustainable Development Goals 3: Good Health and Well-being