New Vaccine to combat cat allergy

Are you allergic to cats? Well if so, you are not alone. About 10% of the population have an allergic reaction when they come in contact with a cat. But the good news is that your days of itchy skin, watering eyes and sneezing may be coming to an end.


Mark Larché, professor in the Department of Medicine at McMaster University, reckons that he and his research group have developed a new and safe vaccine which might make cat allergy a thing of the past.

At present, the many people who both love cats and are allergic to them use the most common treatment which involves frequent allergy shots. These are generally considered the most effective way to bring relief but the shots have many side-effects. These can be anything from considerable swelling at the injection site to a whole body rash.

The new vaccine developed at the McMaster University has almost no side-effects. So how does this medical breakthrough work?

Well, the researchers have isolated a protein which is shed from a cat's skin. This protein is the villain responsible for the allergic reaction in most patients. Once the protein causing the problem had been unmasked, the scientists then cut it into small fragments known as peptides.

These peptides were then exposed to blood taken from 100 patient volunteers who are allergic to cats. The idea was to see which peptides caused specific allergic reactions. Armed with that information, the scientists employed a technique known as peptide immunotherapy to mask a vaccine based on a synthetic version of the allergy-causing peptides.

As an extra benefit, the scientists were also able to identify those protein fragments responsible for the side-effects seen in other allergy treatments and ensure that they were absent from their prototype vaccine cocktail. So the vaccine was given without nasty swellings and skin rashes developing afterwards.

At present the final clinical trials (known in medical terms as 'phase 3') are under way to establish the optimum vaccine dose required. So don't ask your pharmacist for the vaccine just yet - even if the trials go perfectly, it will still be another three years at least before the vaccine is available to patients. But relief is in sight.

For more explanations about the new vaccine see this video:


The research leading up to the vaccine production is also described in a recent paper published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (see reference below).

Journal Reference:

M. Larché, H. Lee, J. Kleine-Tebbe, R.P. Hafner, P. Laidler, D. Healey, C. Buhot, A. Verhoef, B. Maillère, A.B. Kay.Development and Preliminary Clinical Evaluation of a Peptide Immunotherapy Vaccine for Cat Allergy. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 2011; 127 (2): AB219


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