The current recommendation for people with cat hair allergies is usually to avoid cats, take medication to manage allergy symptoms, or undergo allergen-specific immunotherapy (hyposensitisation).
This new treatment follows a different approach: Instead of the allergen (a protein from the cat’s body, as used in hyposensitisation therapy), the antibody against the allergen is administered to the patient. The antibody injection then acts like a protective shield against the allergy. The body would normally need to work strenuously to produce enough antibodies to develop a tolerance to the allergen.
And there is another advantage to the antibody shot: The precise number of antibodies and the properties it should have can be specified. Smaller studies have already shown that these artificially produced antibodies block cat allergens very effectively. On the other hand, the amount and quality of antibodies needed for hyposensitisation vary from patient to patient.
However, the treatment has not yet been approved. A major worldwide study with more than a thousand patients is currently underway. “If the effectiveness of this method is confirmed in the study, it will be a major breakthrough for allergy therapy”, says Randolf Brehler, head of the allergy, occupational dermatology and environmental medicine department at the University Hospital Münster.
The principle of the new treatment is applicable to more than just cat hair allergies. For example, it could potentially help treat birch pollen allergies. This is currently being investigated in studies.
Cat hair allergy is not an allergy to cat hair, but to proteins in the cat’s body. The main allergen, Fel d 1 (Felis domesticus 1), is produced in the cat’s salivary and sebaceous glands and tear ducts, which the cat then transfers to its fur by licking it.
The cat allergens are small and resistant – and they remain stuck to carpets, walls and clothes for a long time in living areas. They can also be detected in public spaces, such as schools or buses. It is difficult to avoid them as recommended.
Mountain C. Neue Hoffnung bei Katzenallergie (New hope for cat allergies). Article in the online edition of the pharmaceutical journal ‘Westfälische Nachrichten’, 21 July 2021. Last retrieved on 19 October 2021. (In German)
Medical Faculty Of Münster. Neuer Ansatz gegen Katzenhaar-Allergie: WWU-Forscher wirken an Therapie mit künstlichen Antikörpern mit (New approach to cat hair allergy: EMU researchers cooperating on artificial antibody treatment). Press release from the University of Bonn, 12 August 2021. Last retrieved on 19 October 2021. (In German)