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Michael Levin

Prof Michael Levin graduated from the University of Cape Town medical school in 1994 and performed his allergy training in the Paediatric Division of Asthma and Allergy based at Red Cross Children’s Hospital in Cape Town from 2000-2005, which he subsequently went on to lead from 2011.

He is an executive committees of the Allergy Society of South Africa responsible for allergy education and training and serves as the CEO of the patient advocacy organization, the Allergy Foundation of South Africa.  He is a member of the European Academy of Asthma, Allergology and Clinical Immunology and a fellow of the American Academy of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology and American College of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.  Prof Levin has served as a member of the WAO Committee on Barrier Disease Issues and the Microbiome and the WAO Committee on Allergy in developing Countries.  He has published 75 peer review scientific articles, 5 chapters in medical books and edited the Oxford Handbook of Paediatrics in Developing Countries and the ALLSA Handbook of Allergy.

His early publications addressed aeroallergen sensitisation and respiratory allergy in urban children in South Africa and subsequently in Botswana.  These studies showed much higher rates of aeroallergen sensitization and respiratory allergy in urban black African teenagers than previously reported.

He then turned my attention to food sensitization and food allergy, both in high-risk populations of subjects with atopic dermatitis in urban Cape Town, as well as in unselected subjects in urban Cape Town and the rural Eastern Cape.  These studies showed high rates of food sensitization and food allergy in urban children with moderate to severe atopic dermatitis, comparable to that found in similar high risk populations in affluent first world settings.  The SAFFA study of 12-36 month children is the only challenge-proven food allergy study in unselected African children.  It showed a marked difference between urban and rural children, with protection against both sensitization and food allergy in rural toddlers.  Mechanistic studies on 4 cohorts of children with and without atopic dermatitis, from rural and urban communities aims to examine for differences in stool and skin microbiome differences, cytokine and RNA transcriptome profiles, sensitization patterns and infectious disease exposures that could account for the difference in prevalence of food sensitization and food allergy.

During the course of fieldwork on the SAFFA study, reports of adverse reactions to red meat prompted us to hypothesize that there is a large, at that stage undiagnosed alpha gal epidemic in the rural Eastern Cape, an area with very little food allergy to the common food allergens.  We therefore performed fieldwork to assess subjects reporting reactions to red meat for alpha gal sensitisation and examine the correlation between raised alpha-gal titres and food challenge proven alpha-gal allergy.  The study gathered a large cohort of 85 subjects with alpha gal allergy during one month.