Soheila Maleki, Sammies 2018 finalist and lead scientist for food allergy research at the Department of Agriculture, discusses her work in determining the cause and treatment of nut allergies, and how it has helped both citizens and industry.
Over the last 30 years, there’s been an explosion in the number of reported peanut allergies. Soheila Maleki, lead scientist for food allergy research at the Department of Agriculture, has dedicated the better part of her career to researching the causes and possible treatments for nut allergies. For her efforts, Maleki is nominated for a Samuel J Heyman Service to America medal. Maleki says that there are many possible reasons for the increase in nut allergies. “There are several theories out there, originally it was thought that it was underdiagnosed. We don’t know the actual real reason. We know that there’s a combination of genetics and environment,” said Maleki. “One of the most popular theories out there is the hygiene hypothesis… We’re cleaner, we’re vaccinated, we don’t get parasites, so our immune system doesn’t have a chance to produce what it needs to fix that. I refer to us as immunological sissys, our immune system isn’t fighting against a real threat… but a benign food.”