The PEBBLES study: Prevention of Eczema By a Barrier Lipid Equilibrium Strategy

Lead Researcher Email Number Webpage

Project Details

To determine if twice daily application of a ceramide dominant emollient can prevent the development of eczema. 

Project summary

Allergic diseases (including eczema, food allergy, hay-fever and asthma) are a major cause of disease in Australia and around the world. It is suspected that at least a proportion of infants become sensitised to aspects of the environment through the skin due to poor skin barrier function in early life. In this trial, we are testing if daily application of EpiCeram™, a novel skin barrier repair emollient, to the skin of neonates for six months can improve skin barrier function (as measured by skin water loss). Mother/baby pairs will be recruited from the antenatal during late pregnancy. Following birth, children will be randomised to either the intervention group (daily EpiCeram™) or to the control group (standard skin care) for six months. An examination of skin barrier function and eczema will be performed when the child is six weeks, and six and 12 months of age. A skin prick test will be performed at six and 12 months, and a blood or saliva sample will be collected at 12 months. Progress to date: To date, 64/100 infants have been recruited, and parent/infant pairs are attending the vast majority of follow-up appointments.


Dr Adrian Lowe

Professor Shyamali Dharmage

Associate Professor Lyle Gurrin

Dr Melanie Matheson (Telstra Health)

Dr John Su (Royal Children's Hospital)

Associate Professor Mimi Tang (Royal Children's Hospital)


  • Asthma Foundation of Victoria Project grant
  • Financial Markets Foundation for Children project grant
  • Australasian College of Dermatology – Fred Bauer Research Grant

Research Publications

6. Lowe AJ, et al. The PEBBLES pilot study: a phase I study of a ceramide-dominant triple lipid mixture for the prevention of eczema in neonates.  BMC Dermatology. 2012, 12

Research Group

Allergy and Lung Health

Faculty Research Themes

Infection and Immunology

School Research Themes

Screening and early detection of disease

Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact the research group leader.

Department / Centre

Centre for Epidemiology and Biostatistics

Unit / Centre

Allergy and Lung Health