A cure for allergic reactions in cats and other pets may only be a few years away, thanks to the discovery of the biological underpinnings that cause them.
Australia and New Zealand have the highest prevalence of asthma in the world, and as our countries become more industrialised, the percentage of population afflicted tends to grow higher. 15 to 30% of people with allergies in Australia have allergic reactions to cats and dogs. And people with pet allergies have super-sensitive immune systems that react to harmless proteins in the pet’s dander (dead skin that is shed), saliva or urine. These proteins are called allergens.
Cat dander is a particularly “sticky” molecule and can appear in many places, in shoes, clothes and walls and ceilings, but how cat dander causes such a severe allergic reaction in some people has long been a mystery. Thanks to new research, a treatment ridding people of their allergies may be on the way. British scientists have been identifying the different components that lead to allergic reactions in cats, and combined with a drug that’s already in clinical trials for other illnesses, they are closer than ever to a treatment for cat allergies.
Researchers at the University of Cambridge found that when dander was released in the presence of the common environmental bacterial toxin Lipopolysaccharides (LPS), it triggered in humans an immune response in the protein receptor TLR4, and subsequently, an allergic reaction. Researchers found that LPS exacerbates the immune response’s reaction to cat dander, and they have identified the part of the immune system that recognises it.
Understanding this triggering mechanism, there are now drugs that have been designed and are now in clinical trials, that could potentially then be used in a different way to treat cat allergies and prevent them. This new drug would be more effective for longterm treatment by inhibiting the reaction of the TLR4 receptor and therefore blocking the allergic reaction. This may be available in pill or inhaler form.
This new information could pave the way for treatments for those with asthma, and other persistent disease triggered by cat allergens, even potentially help create a dog and dust mite cure.