Millions of people around the globe suffer from cat allergies. There’s nothing more devastating to a cat lover than the discovery that they’ve developed an allergy to their feline friends.
Many people continue to own cats despite their allergies; still others struggle to breathe in the homes of friends with cats.
Fifty million Americans suffer from allergies to cats. Of people with allergic asthma, thirty percent of respondents to a study stated that cat dander was a main trigger of their asthma attacks.
Currently, immunotherapy and allergy shots are the only treatment options for cat allergies. The theory is this: If you train the immune system not to react to the allergy protein, you’ll cease to have allergic reactions.
This method is achieved through the injection of cat protein into the body over a series of visits. The dosage is slowly increased and then kept at a target level for a period lasting from three to five years, with the end goal being desensitization or reduced symptoms of the allergy.
However, this method is also cumbersome and non-ideal for a variety of reasons:
- Almost 100 injections are required to see the process through to the end
- Hours upon hours must be spent in the doctor’s office
- The risk of reaction is great, since an allergic person is being injected with the source of their allergy
- Patients have to wait an extra half hour after their shot to ensure they aren’t going to experience anaphylaxis
For the moment, this is the only form of permanent or semi-permanent treatment available. Most patients don’t see the treatment through to the very end. But a new potential treatment has been looming on the horizon, if the results of a clinical trial are anything to judge by.
Patients only needed four shots before they experienced significant decreases in the symptoms they experience when they’re exposed to cat dander or other allergy triggers. After two years, the results remained roughly the same.
The study covered around 1,400 individuals who are allergic to cats. The patients ranged in age from 12 to 65. Trials are taking place in areas across Canada, Russia, and the United States.
It’s unheard-of in modern medicine for such a short treatment to have such a lasting impact. Experts say the research is very encouraging, as it points to a course of action that could change the way cat allergies are treated. Many more people would be able to complete treatment when treatment is only one course of four shots.
The Science Behind Cat-SPIRE
Scientists have studied the cat protein which causes allergies. This protein, called Fel d1, can be broken down into basic components called peptides. Proteins are made of building blocks called amino acids; peptides are strings of more than one of these amino acids.
Usually, Fel d1 has 162 amino acids. Cat-SPIRE, on the other hand, is made using seven synthetic peptides. Each of the peptides has 15 amino acids and is hand-crafted to create the desired response in patients.
With the immunotherapy currently available, allergens are directly injected into a patient. But Cat-SPIRE is different.
Since it’s synthetically crafted, it’s designed to target only the parts of the protein which promote non-immune responses.
This lessens the patient’s reactivity to the medication and eliminates the need for dosage increases. It’s also having unprecedented results regarding the increased tolerance of patients for real cat proteins.
So Is It a Cure?
With all of this said, it’s not guaranteed that Cat-SPIRE will be a catch-all cure for allergies. The average symptom reduction of patients in the original trial was fifty percent.
This means that certain individuals observe strong effects, while others may see little to no effect at all. Further research is needed to determine the ideal number of shots, and whether treatment courses should be tailored based on individual patients.
It’s also unknown how long the treatment will last. For Cat-SPIRE to be a true “cure,” it would have to have eliminated the allergy rather than just postponing an immune response.
Because the tests are so recent, there’s no data regarding how long the treatment will last. We know that the effectiveness has a duration of at least two years, but beyond that, we remain clueless.
Conventional therapy, when it’s undergone to its fullest extent, lasts an average of about seven years. If Cat-SPIRE lasts this long, it’ll be huge; it will be the first form of therapy that rivals conventional therapy in effectiveness. If Cat-SPIRE lasts even longer than that, we might start to call it a cure.
Coping With Allergies While Waiting for the Miracle Cure
Even though Cat-SPIRE has had such positive results in its preliminary testing, there are still several years until it will be available as a mainstream form of treatment. In the meantime, there are ways to help with your cat allergies – and they don’t require you to get 100 shots, either.
Avoid Upholstered Furniture
Upholstery holds far more dander than other pieces of furniture in the house. Hard wooden chairs and floors don’t have the same level of cat allergens. If you have a cat allergy and own a cat, you might want to invest in hardwood flooring instead of carpeting.
You should take a non-drowsy antihistamine to decrease the symptoms you are experiencing. This is especially important if you live with cats or are planning a long visit to a place with cats.
Invest in an Air Purifier
HEPA air purifiers can be bought for less than two hundred dollars. They are the best filters on the market, as they’re required to filter out at least 99.97% of contaminants in the air. You can even bring the air purifier in the car with you to clear your vehicle of allergens.