Researchers Develop Vaccine to Treat People with Cat Allergies

Cat allergy sufferers might have alternative to multiple shots.

McMaster University researchers say they have developed a vaccine that successfully treats people with an allergy to cats. The vaccine is an alternative to frequent allergy shots, which can be costly, and giving up the family pet, according to the Ontario-based university.

Mark Larche, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Medicine at McMaster University and Canada Research Chair in Allergy & Immune Tolerance, developed the vaccine by building on research he’s conducted for the past 10 years in Canada in Britain.

Dr. Larche and his research team took one protein that cats secrete on their fur which causes the majority of allergic problems. Using blood samples from 100 patient volunteers allergic to cats, they deconstructed the molecule and identified short regions within the protein which activate T-cells in the immune system.

Using the amino acid code for the whole protein, researchers made synthetic versions of these regions. For the cat allergy vaccine, they found seven peptides.

“And those synthetic peptides are what we mix together to make the vaccine,” Larche said. “We picked the peptides that would work in as much of the population as possible.”

Initially, four to eight doses a year may be required, but the side effects of the traditional allergy shots do not arise, Larche said.

The optimal dose will be determined in phase three clinical trials that are getting underway with a larger group of cat allergy sufferers, according to McMaster University.

The vaccine is a joint venture between McMaster University and Circassia Ltd., a United Kingdom-based biotech company.

The research is published in the January issue of the Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology.

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