Nut allergies fade but probably never go away

One in 20 children between ages 10 and 14 has an allergy, and researchers say it is important people understand the reaction their bodies could have as they age.

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Liam Wray was just a toddler when his parents, Chris and Lisa Wray, discovered he had an allergy.

“He had an allergic reaction to pistachios — he was given some — and he came out all in hives, and he was finding it quite difficult to breathe.”

From that scary moment, Liam Wray discovered he had a reaction to other nuts, too.

Now, as a 14-year-old, the Melbourne youth carries an EpiPen and antihistamines with him everywhere he goes.

“I get, like, really tingly in my throat. Like, it’s very itchy, but it’s like an inside, like in-your-throat itch, and you can’t actually get rid of it. And then I’ll start to feel sick.”

His parents have worked hard to ensure he is independently aware of the risks.

But now, thanks to participating in a landmark study at Melbourne’s Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, he has some uplifting news.

“I used to be allergic to hazelnuts and almonds, but I’ve grown out of being allergic to them — which is good, because I can have Nutella and stuff now.”

The study assessed 15 food allergies of 10,000 children between ages 10 and 14 to find out both how common allergies were and the cause and scale of the reactions.

Lead researcher Professor Katie Allen says her team discovered one in 20 children had an allergic reaction to food.

“There’s what we call the transient food allergies and the persistent food allergies. So the transient food allergies are the early-life ones, like cows’ milk and egg allergy. They’re more likely to be grown out of. We know that 80 per cent of them will grow out of it by age 5. But this has now confirmed what we thought clinically, that children with nut allergy are more likely to have persistent problems.”

Professor Allen says it highlights the importance of patients being retested as they advance into secondary school and beyond to better understand the severity of their condition.

“Children with nut allergy are more likely to have lifelong allergies. They’re also more likely to have anaphylaxis. And, unfortunately, the fatalities are more likely to be associated with nut anaphylaxis.”

As researchers work towards a treatment, the benefits of getting tested can be immediate.

They were for Liam Wray, whose routine, like his allergy, has now changed.

“If I didn’t get the testing done, I wouldn’t have been able to have almonds or hazelnuts, and I wouldn’t have known what they’re like. And so it’s good to know I can have some … some type of nuts.”

 

 

Terrorism, trade, cooperation dominate AUKMIN talks

This year’s talks have focused on counter terrorism, trade ties and closer geographic cooperation.

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They were also a chance for British officials to explain what the future will look like — or so they hope — after Britain leaves the European Union.

Terrorism, trade and Brexit have been top of the agenda for the annual talks between Australia’s and Britain’s foreign and defence ministers.

After holding bilateral talks on day one, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and British foreign secretary Boris Johnson were joined by defence officials from both nations today.

Discussions were also believed to have touched on security and foreign affairs, as well as opportunities for Britain to expand its influence in Asia.

Sydney is the last stop on a diplomatic tour for Mr Johnson, following trips to Japan and New Zealand.

It has been an important chance for British officials to discuss their post-Brexit vision and begin laying the groundwork for a potential free-trade agreement with Australia.

The former London mayor says he is pleased with the progress made towards a future deal.

“As we go through the process of leaving the arrangements of the European Union, we are going to widen our horizons and work even more closely, and we have, today, reaffirmed our shared goal of concluding a free-trade agreement as soon as possible after we leave the EU.”

Ms Bishop has described Britain as an important ally in a changing world.

“We are seeing a level of uncertainty that we’ve not witnessed in a very long time. Therefore, it is more important than ever before for like-minded countries to find common cause in supporting that international rules-based order. Bilaterally and plurilaterally and multilaterally. And you could not find two more like-minded countries than Australia and the United Kingdom.”

Talks inevitably turned to terrorism, with both nations acknowledging the threat was now much closer to home, including the issue of returning foreign fighters.

Britain’s defence secretary, Sir Michael Fallon, says increased cooperation on security and intelligence will strengthen both countries’ defence capabilities.

He says that will better prepare them for an uncertain future.

“We believe that Australia, as an enhanced partner in NATO, can play a pivotal part in enhancing NATO’s understanding of the challenges that we share in the Indo-Pacific region. And, we believe that the Five Power* Defence Arrangements have a greater role, too, to play in building regional security, in increasing maritime security and helping to fight terrorism.”

Recent concerns over North Korea’s growing nuclear capabilities also prompted a stern warning from Australia’s defence minister, Marise Payne.

“The Foreign Minister has spoken at length on previous occasions in relation to our engagement in terms of sanctions and reinforcing our strong view of the application of sanctions and our extension of those just recently. That is an important message from not just Australia but from other members of the international community, and, out of our discussions today, we are as one in terms of our condemnation of the North Korean regime.”

A lucrative British tender to build Australia’s next fleet of warships was also believed to have been mentioned, with Spain and Italy competing against the British maker B-A-E.

It is the largest peacetime naval investment in Australia’s history.

Meanwhile, a joint leadership forum is planned for next year, involving leaders from across business, politics and the community.

The Australian High Commission in London will also hold an international workshop on trafficking and modern slavery next month.

 

Sweden’s data breach claims ministers as PM reshuffles cabinet

Prime Minister Stefan Lofven vowed he would be staying on despite speculation he could call a snap election.

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Interior Minister Anders Ygeman, a political heavyweight, is standing down “at his own request”, Lofven said at a press conference, adding that Infrastructure Minister Anna Johansson will also step down.

Ygeman reportedly knew about the leak from the national transport agency, which made the private data of millions of citizens accessible abroad, but failed to tell the prime minister.

The scandal has blown up in recent weeks after it emerged that an entire database on Swedish drivers’ licences was made available to technicians in the Czech Republic and Romania, with media reporting that the identities of intelligence agents may have been jeopardised.

Lofven’s Social Democrat-led minority government has been badly rattled by one of Sweden’s largest data breaches in decades, and opposition parties had threatened the coalition with a vote of no confidence.

Many political commentators had expected Lofven to call a snap election at Thursday’s press conference — but he insisted he intends to stay on until his term ends in 2018.

“I have no intention of plunging Sweden into a political crisis,” he said, pointing to “formidable challenges” the country is facing including tensions in the Baltic region, Brexit, and the government’s plans for social and economic reforms.

“I looked at several alternatives, and I chose the best one for the country,” Lofven said.

Defence minister next?

The data leak stems from the Swedish transport agency’s hiring of IBM in 2015 to take over its IT operations.

IBM in turn used subcontractors in the Czech Republic and Romania – making the sensitive information accessible by foreign technicians who did not have security clearance.

Sweden’s Interior Minister Anders Ygeman in Stockholm in 2015. (Getty)AFP

The Swedish military said information on its personnel, vehicles and defence and contingency planning could have been included in the leak, although the transport agency denied having a register on military vehicles and said there was no indication the data had been “spread in an improper way”.

Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist kept his job in the reshuffle despite facing claims that, like the interior minister, he knew about the scandal but failed to tell the premier.

However, Hultqvist still faces the threat of being forced out in a censure motion launched by the opposition on Wednesday against all three ministers caught up in the scandal.

Opposition parties have yet to confirm whether the motion will now go ahead.

Maria Agren, head of the transport agency at the centre of the leak, quit in January for undisclosed reasons but has since confessed to violating data handling. She accepted a fine of 70,000 Swedish kronor (around 7,000 euros, $8,000).

Hultqvist and Ygeman reportedly found out about the leak last year, but the prime minister was only informed in January.

Johansson, who oversees the transport agency, said her former state secretary had known about the leak but kept the information hidden from her – triggering heavy criticism among opposition parties who said she should have known what was happening.

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Drug testing the wastewater: WA has biggest ice problem

Australia’s ice problem could be the worst in the world, according to Justice Minister Michael Keenan.

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While ice continues to be a risk to the nation and is the most dangerous of illegal drugs, figures show it remains the most popular.

“This is a diabolical drug,” Mr Keenan said on Wednesday.

Results of a national study of wastewater find Western Australia has the biggest problem of all the states, with one regional site averaging just over 80 doses per 1000 people per day, while Perth had around 60 doses.

“Australia has probably the most significant ice problem in the world,” Mr Keenan said.

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He said high prices for illicit drugs in Australia had made the nation an attractive market for organised crime.

The average street price of ice in China is $100 per gram compared to $620 in Australia, based on UN figures, leading to a significant increase in the amount and purity of ice smuggled into Australia.

Mr Keenan said Australian Federal Police had begun fighting the drug at its source and were now working with Chinese authorities.

He said the approach “is a great example of how international co-operation is stopping drugs from hitting the streets here in Australia,” with 13 tonnes of ice already being stopped in the past 18 months.

A network of anti-gang squads across Australia is also working to stop illegal drugs in the community but the damage ice inflicts on users, families and frontline staff in hospitals and emergency services makes it the main focus.

The study of wastewater from 37 treatment plants which cover 51 per cent of the population between October 2016 and February 2017 also found the consumption of pain killers oxycodone and fentanyl had dropped but their use remained significant, particularly in regional Australia.

The analysis of Australia’s sewage is the second in a series of nine tests of the nation’s wastewater for drugs.

Of the 13 drugs tested for, alcohol and tobacco remained the most used in all states and territories with cocaine use in Australia’s capital cities double that of the country sites tested.

Researchers also found the use of cocaine dramatically increased in the ACT in December 2016 and was on the rise while alcohol consumption, along with ice use actually dropped below the national average.

Britain to tighten ties in Indo Pacific

Britain is determined to become more active in the Indo Pacific region once it finalises its exit from the European Union, UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson says.

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In a wide-ranging speech in Sydney, Mr Johnson reminisced about a year-long, fun-filled stay in Australia as a 19-year-old in the 1980s, before turning to the more serious topic of talking up Britain’s prospects post Brexit.

Mr Johnson said Britain would strengthen its relationship with ASEAN after its split with the EU is final in 2019, as well as develop trade, military and security ties across the region.

“There is nowhere more exciting to do that than here in the Indo-Pacific; here where there is a third of the global economy, around two thirds of the global population – here where the growth is,” he told a crowd of about 200 people at the Lowy Institute’s annual lecture on Thursday.

“And that is why we have decided once again that the UK must be more present, more active, and more engaged in this region.”

Mr Johnson said Britain aimed to have good relationships with all major countries in the region, including China, Japan and India as well as Australia and New Zealand.

And he flagged that Britain would not shy away from playing a role in maintaining order and weighing in on issues such as China’s military build up in the South China Sea.

Mr Johnson, who led Brexiteers to victory in last year’s referendum in Britain, also talked up the UK’s prospects once its divorce from the EU is finalised in 2019.

And to anyone who thought Britain could not succeed on its own in the world, Mr Johnson invoked the classic Aussie saying: “Don’t come the raw prawn with me.”

In making his case for Brexit he asked the audience – which included Treasurer Scott Morrison, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and business leaders – to consider what Australia would have done if it had joined the EU as it has done the Eurovision singing competition.

“I think we can look at Australia today and after 26 years of continuous growth, and with per capita GDP 25 per cent higher than in the UK, I think we can say that it was not absolutely necessary for Australia to join the Common Market,” he said.

“When we look at what Australia has achieved, we can see grounds for boundless excitement and optimism.”

Mr Johnson, who is in Sydney for three days of talks with Australian government ministers, reiterated his desire that Britain sign a free trade deal with Australia soon after Brexit, saying he hoped it would be “at or near the front of the queue”.

Mr Johnson’s Lowy Lecture followed a day of talks with Ms Bishop and UK Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon and Australia’s Defence Minister Marise Payne, with all ministers agreeing to strengthen trade and security ties.