Scientists working on allergies to cats (and dogs)

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It’s good news for cat lovers: A new, more effective
treatment for allergies may be on the way. Scientists at the
University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom have discovered the
receptor protein in human cells that triggers cat allergies. They
anticipate that new drugs will be developed to bind the protein and
prevent people from having an inflammatory response. “It has long
been known that cat allergies are caused by people reacting to cat
proteins secreted by the salivary or scent glands being transferred
to the fur,” Dr. Clare Bryant, lead researcher, told Yahoo! Shine.
“Other allergen—for example house dust mite allergy protein—trigger
a receptor protein in host [human] cells and we wondered if cat
allergen would have similar effects. We did not expect this to
happen because the cat allergy protein is very different to the
house dust mite protein, so we were very surprised to find that it
triggered inflammation through the same receptor.” Also on Yahoo!
Shine: Top 10 Cat Beards on the Internet About 10 percent of people
have pet allergies, and reactions to cats are twice as common as
reactions to dogs. Cat allergies are especially pernicious because
the proteins are small, light, and sticky. They float through the
air and when they land on a surface—a piece of clothing for
instance—they can be transferred to places that are cat-free.
Symptoms include sneezing, watery eyes, stuffy nose, sore throat,
hives, wheezing, and in severe cases, asthma. Currently the only
way to treat cat allergies is to reduce the symptoms with
antihistamines or decongestants or endure weekly shots to boost the
immune system—which can take as long as a year to kick in and may
not even be effective. Bryant can’t predict exactly how long it
will take for new drugs to reach on the market—that’s up to the
pharmaceutical companies—but says that “drugs that inhibit the
receptor have already been tested in clinical trials for conditions
such as sepsis.” She added, “I would anticipate that an allergic
person could, say, inhale a blocking drug before going to a house
with cats and not get a reaction.” And allergic dog lovers have
cause for hope, too. Bryant believes the findings could lead to
improved treatment for canine allergies. The research will be
published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of
Immunology.