The Wyss Institute at Harvard and the KeepSmilin4Abbie Foundation have partnered to advance research and development efforts in the early detection and treatment of anaphylaxis.
Anaphylaxis is a severe, potentially life threatening allergic reaction that affects about 1-2% of the population. It has a rapid onset, usually occurring within minutes after exposure.
Anaphylaxis is treated by an injection of adrenaline, usually carried by the allergic person in the form of an auto-injector. The sooner the adrenaline is administered, the better the outcome for the patient.
Adrenaline can help prevent the anaphylactic reaction becoming anaphylactic shock. Despite this, death due to anaphylaxis is common. It usually occurs because adrenaline is not injected soon enough.
Abbie Benford was a 15-year-old girl who was diagnosed with multiple allergies and asthma as a toddler. On December 18th 2013, 4 days after suffering an anaphylactic reaction, Abbie died in intensive care.
On the day of her reaction, soon after eating her breakfast, she complained of indigestion and difficulty breathing. Her father, after hearing her wheezing, gave her her nebulizer. He then called 911 and her mother injected first one EpiPen and then another. 20 minutes after the first symptoms appeared, Abbie was unconscious and was in cardiac arrest. Her father started CPR and 6 minutes after the 911 call, EMTs arrived but sadly it was too late for Abbie.
The fast progression of her reaction meant that adrenaline was not administered in time. Her family have since set up the KeepSmilin4Abbie Foundation to fund research into technology for early detection and treatment of anaphylaxis and also to increase awareness.
The goal is to understand the processes that signify an anaphylactic reaction will occur at the earliest stages. This could then be used to develop a device that can recognise these processes and once a critical level is reached, inject adrenaline automatically and alert caregivers.
The technology has broad applications. Biochemical analytical methods are being created that continually monitor biomarker levels. New sensor technologies will be able to detect the internal biochemical and physiological changes that signify anaphylaxis. A computer algorithm will be integrated which will then cause the wearable injector to administer the adrenaline.
“At-risk teenagers like Abbie are most likely to be stricken by sudden death from anaphylaxis. Most medical problems can be solved with early detection. For anaphylaxis this is a subjective assessment by the patient that can cause delays in treatment. We believe technology-enabled early detection and treatment will remove ambiguity in the assessment phase, providing patients with early notification and treatment that saves lives. And we think the Wyss Institute team uniquely combines the science, technology and clinical realms to solve this problem” said Stephen Benford, Abbie’s father and Executive Director of The KeepSmilin4Abbie Foundation.
Disclaimer: The information provided is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Allergy Lifestyle Limited (t/a) Allergy Lifestyle) uses reasonable endeavours to check the accuracy of information provided however no warranty is given that they are error-free. Always seek the advice of an allergy specialist and follow your anaphylaxis emergency care plan.