Good news for cat lovers who can’t stop sneezing around their furry friends: Researchers have developed a potential new cat allergy vaccine.
The preliminary study, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, showed that the vaccine called HypoPet is able to target and neutralize the major cat allergen “Fel d 1” — a cat protein that’s secreted into a cat’s saliva and tears, as well as found on the animal’s pelt — that causes humans’ allergic reactions. The researchers reported that the vaccine is “well-tolerated.”
But unlike most vaccines, the shot is for the cat — not its human owners. In other words, the vaccine immunizes cats “against their own major allergen, Fel d 1,” according to the study.
The vaccine would help millions of pet owners who are allergic to their animals. “The proteins found in a pet's dander, skin flakes, saliva and urine can cause an allergic reaction or aggravate asthma symptoms in some people,” according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI). “An allergen is a normally harmless substance that triggers the immune system to overreact in people with allergies.”
The result? Sniffling, sneezing, itchiness, and watery eyes.
The vaccine has the potential to lead to a lower allergenic cat, and the benefits of that are two-fold, according to a statement released by the chief executive officer of HypoPet AG, Gary Jennings: “Both human subjects and animals could profit from this treatment because allergic cat owners would reduce their risk of developing chronic diseases, such as asthma, and become more tolerant of their cats, which therefore could stay in the households and not need to be relinquished to animal shelters.”
“If that really works, that’s definitely a move forward for people who have cat allergies,” Stanley Goldstein, MD, director of Allergy & Asthma Care of Long Island, tells Yahoo Lifestyle: “Cat allergen is a very potent allergen. You do see asthma as one of the allergic results of exposure to that allergen. So that [vaccine] could be a tremendous change.”
However, as Goldstein points out, more research is still needed — including with human subjects — and it will be a while before the vaccine is available.
In the meantime, you can help keep sneezing and itchy, watery eyes at bay by keeping pets out of your bedroom (since you spend about eight hours or more there every day). The AAAAI also recommends using a double or micro-filter bag in the vacuum to reduce the amount of pet allergen in carpeting, which can end up in the air you breathe, and use HEPA air cleaners, which help remove allergenic particles from the air so you can breathe easier.
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