CIRCAN PhD Opportunity

Investigating the role of diet in the treatment of preschool wheeze


Acute wheezing illness are the most common reason for hospital admission in preschool children in Australia. Both admission and readmission rates with an acute wheezing illness have increased substantially over recent decades. A growing body of evidence suggests nutrition has significant impact on development of wheezing illnesses in children and adults. Several studies have found that plant-based diets with high intakes of fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, and legumes, which are rich sources of antioxidants and fibre, are protective against recurrent wheezing illnesses via reducing inflammation and obesity risk. Conversely, westernised diets with high intakes of refined grains, processed foods, red meats, and dairy products exacerbate inflammation and obesity, and appear to be associated with an elevated risk of wheezing illnesses. However, evidence among preschool aged children is needed.

The proposed PhD program will involve epidemiological investigations of the contribution of dietary factors in development of recurrent wheeze in preschool children, and co-design of an evidence-based and scalable mHealth dietary tool for use in clinical care. The program will build on the NHMRC funded ARROW trial, in which over 2000 children with preschool wheeze will be enrolled and followed to evaluate the role of OM-85, an orally administered bacterial lysate. The ARROW protocol includes a detailed dietary measure as part of the enrolment process. The PhD candidate will analyse the relationship between these dietary data and the participants’ respiratory health over 12 months. In concert, they will be supported to lead the co-design of a dietary measure and mhealth intervention integrated into routine inpatient paediatric care.

Specific research questions may include:

  • A systematic review to identify the dietary factors that are linked with preschool wheeze.
  • Analyses of dietary data under assembly in the ARROW trial to investigate the effect of diet on respiratory health among children with preschool wheeze.
  • Qualitative interviews and co-design of a dietary tool with parents/carers and paediatric allied health, nursing and medical clinicians for prevention of preschool wheeze.
  • Conduct feasibility testing of the dietary tool in practice and collect preliminary data on uptake and end user experience of the tool to inform future large-scale interventions

This opportunity is open to impatient doctors, dietitians, and nurses. A background in nutrition and previous research/clinical experience are desirable.


Prof Peter Vuillermin, Dr Sarah McNab, Dr Miaobing (Jazzmin) Zheng, others TBD