Good mews: A vaccine for your cat could stop humans having an allergic reaction to them
- Scientists have developed a vaccine which could stop allergies to cats
- A jab has been found to significantly reduce the protein that causes reactions
- For those who are afraid of needles, it is the cat who has to have the injection
It’s a source of dread for many – arriving at a friend’s for dinner to find there’s a cat creeping in the kitchen.
But for those familiar with the itchy eyes, the runny nose and wheezing brought on by a moggie on the prowl – an end to the misery is in sight.
Scientists have developed a vaccine which could prove a godsend for the one in ten of us thought to be allergic to cats.
And for those afraid of needles, the good news is it’s the animals who are injected – not us.
for those familiar with the itchy eyes, the runny nose and wheezing brought on by a moggie on the prowl – an end to the misery is in sight (file image)
Cat allergies are caused by a protein called Fel-d1, present mainly in the animal’s fur. The protein attaches itself to cat dander, tiny particles of dry skin which are shed on surfaces such as bedding and sofas.
When the protein gets into a person’s airways, it can trigger a rush of histamine – a chemical pumped out by the immune system when it thinks it is under attack.
It is this turbo-charged response by the immune system, rather than the protein itself, that causes the distressing symptoms.
The allergy affects half of all asthmatic children, according to charity Allergy UK, and many are forced to rely on anti-histamine tablets or inhalers to relieve their symptoms when a cat is present.
And it is also spells bad news for the animals themselves – with charity Cats Protection receiving ‘hundreds of phone calls a year’ from owners who have had allergic reactions to their pets and need to rehome them. Researchers have spent nearly a decade developing the vaccine, called HypoCat, which works by neutralising the Fel-d1 protein by triggering the cat’s own immune system to attack and destroy it.
Research shows cat allergy rates have soared over the last few decades, with around 30 per cent of the population of Western Europe now thought to suffer from them (file image)
A study, to be published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, found the jab significantly reduced the amount of harmful protein produced. Scientists from the University Hospital Zurich, Switzerland, said all 54 cats injected went on to produce the antibodies – or ‘defender’ cells – needed to destroy the protein.
They said the jab could be available within the next three years, adding: ‘Both humans and animals could profit from this treatment. Allergic cat owners would reduce their risk of developing chronic diseases, such as asthma.
‘Their cats could stay in the households and not need to be relinquished to animal shelters.’
Research shows cat allergy rates have soared over the last few decades, with around 30 per cent of the population of Western Europe now thought to suffer from them.
An estimated six million Britons are thought to have a cat allergy.
There is currently no cure for the allergy, although immunotherapy – which slowly exposes sufferers to tiny doses of an allergen – can make dampen any reactions. It can take years, however, before sufferers reap the benefits.
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