dr patricia macchiaverni phd

Patricia Macchiaverni, PhD

clinical and translational researcher
Research Fellow, The University of Western Australia
Honorary Research Associate, Telethon Kids Institute


"House dust mite shedding in human milk: a neglected cause of Allergy susceptibility"
In addition to being a source of nutrients for the developing newborn, human milk contains thousands of bioactive compounds, which influence infant health in the short-term as exemplified by its major benefits on infectious disease prevention.

Many of the human milk compounds also have the required characteristics to instruct immune development and guide long-term health. Prebiotics, probiotics, and varied antimicrobial molecules all have the potential to shape the composition and function of the establishing gut microbiota, which is known to be a major determinant of immune function.

Another and less explored way human milk can instruct long-term immunity is through antigen shedding. Her research reviewed the evidence that antigens from maternal environment and more specifically from allergen sources are found in human milk. 

Data from rodent models and birth cohorts show that allergen shedding in breast milk may influence long-term allergy risk. The research aims to  uncover the variables that may underlie heterogeneity in oral tolerance induction and allergy prevention in children breast-fed by allergen-exposed mothers.

They focus on the parameters that control antigen transfer to breast milk, on the unique biological characteristics of allergens in breast milk, and on the milk bioactive compounds that were found to influence immune response in offspring. 

This understanding is likely fundamental to guide maternal interventions leading to lifelong allergen tolerance.

Key take aways:

Breastmilk is a source of infant exposure to HDM allergen

Der p 1 in breastmilk can act as an adjuvant and increase the risk for food and respiratory allergy

The levels of Der p 1 in mattress dust do not condition its presence in breastmilk


Dr. Patricia Macchiaverni is a clinical and translational researcher who works with animal model and human samples from birth cohorts to understand how maternal milk affects infant immune development and long-term homeostasis. 

She holds a dual degree in Biological Sciences (bachelor and Education) and a PhD in Immunology. She completed her PhD in 2012 with Prof Condino-Neto at University of São Paulo, Brazil in collaboration with Prof Verhasselt at Universite de Nice, France. Her PhD aimed at characterizing the transmission of antibodies directed to house dust mite through placenta and human milk and address mechanisms of tolerance induction through breastfeeding.

Using prospective population-based data from EDEN and PIAMA cohorts, she showed that early exposure to mite allergens transferred through breast milk affect child’s subsequent development of allergic sensitization and allergy. This is now being translated in a RCT (study nested within the SYMBA trial) where she is co-PI. Recently, she’s also involved as PI  in a study to investigate  SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in breast milk in response to maternal infection. 

In 2017 Dr. Patricia Macchiaverni joined the team of Professor Valérie Verhasselt at the University of Western Australia as research fellow and in 2022 Telethon Kids Institute as Honorary Research Associate. A major objective guiding her work is the identification of factors that could endow breastfeeding with the capacity to prevent allergic and infectious disease and to bring research on human lactation at the highest level.
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