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2014 Press Releases

“Allergies: Modern Life and Me”

26 Aug 2014
Professor Fergus Shanahan

UCC's Professor Fergus Shanahan will appear on BBC Two's science programme,  Horizon, on the topic “Allergies: Modern Life and Me” tomorrow night (Wed 27 Aug), 9pm.

The programme features immunologist Professor Graham Rook, Professor Fergus Shanahan, Chair of Medicine, UCC and Director of the Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre, a Science Foundation Ireland research centre in food and medicine, along with Professor of Allergy and Clinical Immunology Syed Hasan Arshad, paediatric allergist Dr Adam Fox, and scientists Professor Sally Bloomfield, Professor Ben Marsland and Dr Lindsay Hall.

According to Professor Shanahan you may think of yourself as entirely human, but in reality you have approximately ten times more bacterial cells in your body than human ones, and it turns out that the latest scientific research is starting to reveal that they play an increasingly vital role in educating our immune system.  Changes to the bacteria that live inside all of us are responsible for increasing the number of people with allergies, suggests new research.

Horizon examines the lives of two modern, allergic families to discover how their bacteria have been impacted by their lifestyles, and why it’s making them allergic.

Professor Fergus Shanahan explains the extent to which we are all covered in bacteria – making us technically more bacteria than human.  With a raft of mini cameras, GPS units and the very latest gene sequencing technology, the show discovers how the western lifestyle is impacting their bacteria. Why are these changes making people allergic? And what can be done to put a stop to the allergy epidemic? 

Professors Graham Rook, Fergus Shanahan and Sally Bloomfield discuss how we can move forwards in the future to try and combat the allergy epidemic, how we can re-engage with the good bacteria that we’ve been missing, and how a few simple steps can help prevent scores of people developing allergies in the future.

The programme, produced and directed by Rebecca Harrison will  be broadcast on BBC2 at 9pm on Wednesday 27th August with further regional broadcasts on Thursday.  For further details see

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