A research team led by Monash and Melbourne universities have discovered why people can develop life-threatening allergies following the treatment for conditions such as epilepsy and AIDS.


The study published in the journal Nature, revealed how some drugs inadvertently target the immune system to alter how the body’s immune system perceives it’s own tissues, making them look foreign.


As a consequence, the immune system then attacks the foreign nature of the tissues as if they were imcompatible transplants.


Professor James McCluskey of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Melbourne said this was a significant discovery uncovering the molecular basis of a group of drug hypersensitivities.


“A whole class of drug allergy is likely to be explained by this discovery,” said Professor McCluskey who led the study with Professor Tony Purcell from the University of Melbourne’s Bio21 Institute and Professor Jamie Rossjohn from Monash University.


“There are several drugs that can cause life threatening skin rashes and other symptoms such as fever, diarrhea, muscle aches and pains.


“A simple blood test may help to predict adverse reactions in the treatment of a broad range of conditions like AIDS, epilepsy, gout and infections.”