Can Cats Treat Cat Allergies?
By Laura Tangley
New York Times News Service
Published November 6, 2005
If you're a mouse, an attack of the sniffles when you scamper by a bit of
cat hair may be a good thing--an early warning system allowing a quick
getaway from the predator.
In the natural world, of course, mice rarely, if ever, suffer from cat
allergies. But laboratory mice specially bred to be allergic to cats have
been cured by researchers who have developed a novel approach to allergy
The results may lead to better therapy for millions of people who are
allergic to cats, including 14 percent of those ages 6 through 19, and for
the estimated 50 million Americans who suffer from some type of allergy.
The new treatment involves linking a feline protein that causes cat
allergies to a human protein that stops immune system cells from releasing
histamine, the chemical that sets off allergy symptoms.
To test the therapy, the scientists exposed the allergic mice to proteins
from cat saliva or dander, then injected some of them with the human-feline
protein. A single injection "blunted the allergic response before it began,"
said Dr. Christopher L. Kepley, an assistant professor at Virginia
Commonwealth University and a co-author of the report. Kepley conducted the
study with scientists at UCLA.
In earlier work, Kepley and his colleagues tested the treatment on cultured
blood cells from people who were allergic to cats. Cells containing the
human-feline protein released 90 percent less histamine than those that did
If the therapy works as well in humans as it does in mice, Kepley said, it
may lead to a "faster and safer" way to treat a variety of human allergies.
The problem with traditional desensitization treatments like allergy shots,
he said, is that they require multiple injections with gradually increasing
doses, a process that can take a year.
Allergy sufferers will have to be patient, though. The cat allergy treatment
will not be available for at least three to five years, Kepley said.