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Head, Immunology and Breastfeeding



Professor Verhasselt is Head of Immunology and Breast Feeding at the Telethon Kids Institute. She has 20 years of experience in translational research on the impacts of breastfeeding on child immune development and health. With her team, she aims to establish the matches and, importantly, the possible mismatches, between what the infant needs for healthy development and the nutrition that they are provided. She wants to reveal what is needed to make breast milk more likely to prevent conditions such as allergy, malaria or growth failure.

She has revolutionised the field of allergy prevention by early oral allergen exposure with a landmark study published in Nature Medicine in 2008. This study contributed to the recent major changes in breastfeeding guidelines for food allergy prevention, that Prof. Verhasselt co-authored (European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology food allergy prevention guidelines).

Her creative mind, expertise in immunology of breastfeeding and worldwide col-laborations have resulted in the publication of a ground-breaking study on a novel concept for Malaria prevention through natural vaccination via breast milk. Her leadership in clinical studies, aiming to improve child health through early nutrition, is shown in her current study of a birth cohort of 1000 children that investigates the importance of colostrum for growth, allergy and infection prevention. This knowledge will be informing changes in clinical practice and driving policy changes such as increased budgets in community and health services for early breastfeeding support.

Prof. Verhasselt has presented more than 40 invited lectures in the last 3 years to interna-tional scientific meetings and she has regular speaking engagements to local and internation-al meetings of stakeholders in child nutrition. She co-coordinates and lectures at the course “Breastfeeding A Foundation for Human Health” held at The University of Western Australia. Prof. Verhasselt has authored more than 80 publications, many published in top 1% Journal (Nature Medicine, JAMA Pediatrics, Gut, Lancet Infectious Disease, Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology).

Her research receives a major financial support by the Larsson Rosenquist Foundation.