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April 9, 2013 at 11:16 PMComments: 0 Faves: 0

A Vaccine for Cat Allergies

By Jeffrey VanWingen M.D. More Blogs by This Author

When I met my wife, things clicked perfectly. At the risk of sounding too sappy, I'll say that we completed each other. As our relationship evolved, we took on each others' lives. Things progressed wonderfully with only one hang-up: Each time I spent significant time at her home, I suffered from a headache, watery eyes, congestion, and chest tightness thanks to her cat Sunshine. Unfortunately, my symptoms progressed and a difficult decision needed to be made - I stayed and Sunshine went to a loving family.

Pet allergies put a damper and strain on peoples' lives. I hear many of these stories from my patients: "family friends" exiled from homes, a child's inability to visit their pet-loving friends' homes, or required (potentially sedating) drugs just to tolerate a family pet. Wouldn't it be nice if there were something out there to help this problem? An exciting vaccine that's still in the early stages of development, is showing promise in helping those suffering from cat allergies.

Promising Findings

A recent report has hit the scientific literature reporting success in a new genre of vaccine. This series of injections has been shown to successfully desensitize the overzealous immune response toward cats in those who are allergic. Data showed that a series of four injections placed beneath the skin over twelve weeks yielded significant symptom improvement two years after administration.

To yield this data, a number of allergy symptoms were scored after precise exposure to cat allergens in the controlled environment of an allergy chamber. Symptoms were scored for subjects with no treatment, with antihistamine therapy, and with the vaccine. Obviously, the untreated group suffered the most. The vaccine group fared best with a severity score less than half of that with the antihistamine group.

Practical Applications

The results are preliminary and only introductory by the standards of the Food and Drug Administration. In the report, the specifics of how the vaccine works were kept vague, likely for reasons of competition. While enacting the immune response to cat antigens, the vaccine is undoubtedly different than traditional allergy shots which must be given weekly.

On the upside, however, this new technology offers hope for those troubled by cat allergies and other allergies, in general. Perhaps this vaccine can eventually help to bridge the gap created by allergies that serves to separate people with allergies from our furry friends.

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