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New pill could cure allergy to cats

A team of British researchers have discovered how and why animals, in particular cats, can trigger allergic reactions in humans. They are now hopeful t...

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|Jun 10|magazine7 min read

A team of British researchers have discovered how and why animals, in particular cats, can trigger allergic reactions in humans.

They are now hopeful that a new pill could cure millions of pet lovers of their cat allergy and reunite them with their feline companions.

Researchers at the University of Nottingham have found a protein component which initiates an allergic reaction to cats.

They discovered that when microscopic flakes of dander (cats’ skin) are breathed in, they are wrongly identified as being a threat by the immune system.

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The ‘watchmen’ cells (dendric cells) of the immune system then trigger a defence and attack the intruder, causing the symptoms of an allergy.

The protein, which is known as the mannose receptor, is on the surface of the dendric cells and it is also responsible for causing allergies to dogs and dust mites.

By understanding the cause of the cat allergy, Dr Amir Ghaem-Maghami, one of the researchers, is certain a pill could be developed to cure pet allergies.

“Most treatments at the moment are symptomatic – you have the allergy and then you try to stop the symptoms,” he said in an interview.
 
“What we are saying is that if you understand what happens at the time the irritant interacts with the body, you can intervene early on.”

 He therefore believes that a pill that targets the reactions of the protein on the dendric cells could act as a cure for cat allergies.

 “There has been a sharp increase in the prevalence of allergies over the past few decades and allergic asthma among children has reached epidemic proportions,” said Ghaem-Maghami. 

“One of the main problems with allergic disease is the impact on quality of life.  For those who are suffering, it is a very big deal,” he added.

Ghaem-Maghami has already started researching and testing potential treatments for cat allergies.

One of the most common pet-related allergies, a cat allergy causes sneezing, itchy eyes and rashes and can trigger an asthma attack in asthma sufferers.