New Treatment Zaps Cat Allergy Symptoms for Two Years

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Canadian researchers have developed a treatment that protects cat allergy sufferers for up to two years. Just four doses kept many symptoms at bay two years after patients started treatment.

The scientists are affiliated with Ontario's McMaster University. They pronounced their vaccine successful after the second phase of a clinical trial to treat allergies to cats, according to Medical News Today.

Michael Larché, professor of medicine, presented the findings at an annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI) in San Antonio. McMaster partnered with Circassia, Ltd., a UK biotech firm, to develop the treatment.

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) reports that between 15 and 30 percent of individuals with allergies are allergic to cats and dogs. Allergies to cats occur about twice as often as those involving dogs.

One common misconception, the AAFA says, is that pet hair is the cause. People with cat allergies actually suffer from a reaction to the feline's dander -- dead skin the animal sheds -- instead of its fur. However, cat fur collects dander.

According to the AAAAI, there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic breed of cat or dog. While the easiest way to relieve an allergy is removing the pet from the environment, many cat owners instead opt for allergy injections from an allergist or immunologist. Over time, this treatment can reduce the symptoms of the allergy, which is actually allergic rhinitis, in many sufferers.

McMaster University says that the team's work built on research conducted for 10 years in Canada and Britain, and tested a vaccine that has almost no side effects. They developed the treatment by deconstructing a molecule in cat dander responsible for most problems connected to allergies to cats. By utilizing an amino acid code found within a protein that activates T-cells in the human immune system, they produced an effective vaccine.

The second phase of the trial included 202 patients who received either the vaccine or a placebo over a 12-week period. The researchers reassessed 50 subjects after two years for symptoms. Those who received four doses of vaccine still showed significantly fewer symptoms while exposed to cat allergens for four days. If additional tests prove positive, the vaccine could be available within two years.

My husband and I have taken over-the-counter medications for airborne allergies for years. In the 1980s, I completed eight years of injections for dust and mold. Five years ago, we founded a cat rescue. Our allergy symptoms significantly worsened within six months.

Although some cats are short-term guests, others are permanent residents. Given the volume of animals, it's impossible to figure out which might be culprits in order for us to be currently immunized. A broad-spectrum vaccine that could banish cat allergy symptoms for two years would definitely be on our medical wish list.

Vonda J. Sines has published thousands of print and online health and medical articles. She specializes in diseases and other conditions that affect the quality of life.

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