Trans-generational effects: exposures before conception & offspring risk of asthma and allergies

Project Details

We aim to establish whether pre-conception exposure to allergens, proxy markers of lower microbial diversity (e.g. lack of exposure to farming and infections), chemicals (e.g. tobacco smoke, occupational exposures), metabolic risk markers (e.g. obesity, diet) and parental disease phenotypes (e.g. severity of asthma and immune markers) increase the risk of asthma and allergies in offspring independent of post-conception exposures.

Project summary

There is emerging evidence, mainly from animal studies, that asthma and allergy may result from exposures before conception. If pre-conception exposures are important in the development of asthma and allergies, it is a "game changer" in this area, as it may:

  1. Lead to novel interventions
  2. Explain the inconsistent evidence on post-conception risk factors (possible confounding by pre-conception risk factors)
  3. Explain the failure of intervention trials directed at the post-conception perioud.

Our study is part of Respiratory Health In Nothern Europe, Switzeland, Spain and Austalia (RHINESSA) project, an international research project investigating lung health in the offspring of the prestigious European Community Respiratory Health Survey (ECRHS) participants in 11 centres in Northern Europe, Spain, Switzerland, and Australia. Our international study will be the world's first to use the life course approach to identify pre-conception risk factors for asthma and allergies in children and adults.


Professor Shyamali Dharmage

Dr Melanie Matheson

Dr Adrian Lowe

Dr Caroline Lodge

Dr John Burgess

Professor Cecilie Svanes (University of Bergen, Norway)

Professor Gita Mishra (University of Queensland)

Professor Michael Abramson (Monash University)

Associate Professor Bircan Erbas (LaTrobe University)

Associate Professor Lyle Gurrin

Professor Paul Thomas (University of New South Wales)

Dr Chris Barton (University of Adelaide)

Professor Haydn Walters (University of Tasmania)

Professor Katie Allen (Murdoch Children's Research Institute)

Professor Melissa Southey (Melbourne School of Biomedical Sciences, Melbourne Medical School, The University of Melbourne)

Dr Geza Benke (Monash University)

Professor John Hopper

Professor Richard Saffrey (Murdoch Children's Research Institute)


Bergen Research Foundation Norway 

The University of Melbourne

This is part of the Respiratory Health In Nothern Europe, Switzeland, Spain and Austalia (RHINESSA) project

Research Group

Allergy and Lung Health

Faculty Research Themes

Infection and Immunology

School Research Themes

Prevention and management of non-communicable diseases (including cancer), and promotion of mental health

Key Contact

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

Department / Centre

Centre for Epidemiology and Biostatistics