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Shrimps to be used to battle hay fever

20th of March

Shrimp shells are being used by New Zealand researchers as a novel therapy for hay fever, TV3 news reports.

The treatment comes in the form of a nasal spray and changes the way the immune system responds to allergic triggers.

Shrimp shells contain a carbohydrate called chitin...which has been manufactured into in a nasal spray.

It is different from antihistamines or other sprays on the market as it acts to prevent hay fever.

"Our product doesn't actually alter the symptoms, it alters the cause," Dr Andrew Kelly from BioPacific Ventures explains. "It appears to alter the way the immune system responds to the allergen."

Hay fever is common afflicting 20 percent of New Zealanders, one of the highest rates in the world.

An Auckland company has invested in developing the product here.

"It's actually enabled a bit of technology and a bit of science to remain here and actually grow here, rather than needing to leave New Zealand to do its major development," Dr Kelly said.

Meeting the expected demand from overseas is the company's next big challenge.

"It's unavoidable that a company like this must tackle and address global markets," Dr Kelly said. "So it must be facing those big consumer markets in the US and Europe."

It is now being tested on hayfever sufferers, but could be used to treat other common ailments.

"We're also looking at other applications such as the common cold prevention of symptoms," pharmaceutical executive Dr Stuart McLachlan told 3 News. "We're looking at influenza."

This week BioPacific Ventures are up for a major award for excellence to bringing economic value to New Zealand at a time when the country is losing many of its scientists overseas.