Vaccination for cat allergy


Currently the best way of treating an allergen is with allergy shots, a lengthy, dangerous and expensive process involving injections up to three times a week for seven months and risking allergic reaction as bad as the potentially fatal anaphylaxis.

Now, Mark Larché, immunologist at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, is developing vaccines that might reduce allergies more quickly and safely. He has focused on ragweed and cat allergies, and includes a little of each allergen in the vaccine, which is not enough to cause a reaction but enough to make a difference. He administers the vaccine once a month for four months, and is unsure yet whether a booster will be needed to retain effectiveness. Three hundred and fifty people have received the cat vaccine in tests, and 300 the ragweed vaccine. Recipients have reported that after vaccination their symptoms have dropped by approximately half.

The theory is that because the antibodies and immune system go on the attack when they recognize a whole allergy in the system, if they only find little pieces of the allergen then they are less likely to react. Larché has created artificial strands of peptides, the protein that causes the reaction, which are tolerated by the immune system, and ignored by the reactive cells. This, over time, retrains the immune system to tolerate the whole allergen.

Source: Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology

More research on the management of allergy

First published in July 2010

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