They may be cute and cuddly, but every year cats are responsible for irritating the eyes, noses and throats of the nearly 10 million people each year who suffer from cat allergies, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Until recently, there were few options available to treat them. Now, however, things are looking up for those who want to be able to spend time with felines and the people who love their pets.
McMaster University researchers are beginning the third phase of clinical trials to determine the optimal dose for a vaccine that prevents allergies to cats. The vaccine, which was developed by Mark Larche, a professor in the Department of Medicine at the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine and Canada Research Chair in Allergy & Immune Tolerance, could save many people the agonizing choice of having to either surrender their cats or live with the allergies they cause.
The scientists took a protein secreted by cats that’s responsible for most allergic reactions and broke it down. They identified the areas within the molecule that are responsible for activating T-cells, which help fight infection and initiate an immune response in turn. Researchers then synthesized these regions and developed the vaccine, which combines seven synthetic peptides that are used to inoculate allergy sufferers. The immunization, which has been reported safe and has few side effects, is given between four and eight times per year.
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