January 2023

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Health Capsule

Experimental Cat Allergy Therapy Gives More Effective Relief

Researchers are testing a new way to treat people with allergies. The method uses regular allergy shots plus a lab-made molecule. The molecule blocks substances involved in allergic reactions in the body. For people with cat allergies, the combination therapy gave more effective relief than allergy shots alone.

When you breathe in high amounts of a substance you’re allergic to—such as pollen, mold, pet dander, or dust mites—the resulting reactions in the nose are called allergic rhinitis. You may develop a stuffy, runny, and itchy nose as well as sneezing. These problems are caused by the body’s disease defenses reacting to something that’s harmless for most people.

Some people get allergy shots to reduce these reactions. The shots gradually expose them to higher doses of the substance they’re allergic to. This can train the body’s defenses not to react when these things are in the air. Unfortunately, allergy shots don’t work for every-one. And the shots usually need to be given for at least three years.

To test the new treatment, an NIH-funded research team studied 121 adults with cat allergies. Some participants received allergy shots alone. Others received the new combination treatment. Treatments lasted nearly a year.

By the time the treatments ended, both groups had improved. But when exposed to cat proteins, those given the experimental combination therapy had fewer symptoms than people given allergy shots alone. A year after the treatments were stopped, the effects from the standard allergy shots started wearing off. But the experimental treatment was still working to reduce symptoms.

Researchers are continuing to study how the treatment works. They also plan to test and see if the approach might help to treat food allergies.