A Dog Allergy Vaccine May Be Within Grasp

Good news for canine lovers — the long-awaited dog allergy vaccine may be just around the corner.

April 11th marks National Pet Day, which celebrates a special bond between humans and their furry and feathered friends.

Owning a pet is linked to several health benefits, such as reduced blood pressure, lower levels of cholesterol and triglyceride, as well as decreased feelings of loneliness and anxiety, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Pet owners also have more opportunities for exercise, outdoor activities, and socializing.

However, the benefits of pet ownership are unavailable for some. Up to 20% of the world's population is affected by allergies to cats and dogs, which can cause conjunctivitis, skin problems, mouth and throat itchiness, and asthma.

Creating a dog allergy vaccine has been challenging because the allergic reaction can be triggered by seven different allergens, called Canis familiaris allergens 1-7 or Can f 1-7.

Just one of them, Can f 1, is responsible for 50-75% of reactions in people allergic to dogs. The allergen is found in dogs' tongue tissue, salivary glands, and skin.

The challenge may be soon overcome, according to a 2021 study published in the Federation of European Biochemical Societies Journal.

For the first time, researchers at Osaka Prefecture University in Japan used X-ray crystallography to determine the structure of the Can f 1 protein.

They found that the locations of surface electrical charges in the Can f 1 protein were quite different from the other Can f proteins, suggesting a series of 'residues' that are good candidates for the IgE epitope.

IgE epitopes are specific parts of the antigens that are recognized by the immune system and stimulate or "determine" an immune response.

In other words, the researchers identified where antibodies are most likely to bind to Can f 1, laying the groundwork for developing a hypoallergenic vaccine.

Not only does it bring a dog allergy vaccine "within our grasp," as the researchers put it, but the newly discovered principles could be used much more widely against various allergies.

When will the cat allergy vaccine be available?

While dog lovers may need to wait several years for the allergy shot to be developed, a vaccine against cat allergy may hit the United States market as early as this year.

The HypoCat vaccine, developed by a Swiss company, Saiba Animal Health, works by immunizing cats against Fel d 1, the most common allergen in cats found in saliva and sebaceous glands.

As immunization causes cats' immune systems to destroy the allergens on their own, the animals become less likely to make people sick.

How is a dog allergy treated?

Despite having pet allergies, millions of Americans live with their four-legged companions.

Although allergies cannot be cured, symptoms can be treated with antihistamine pills, nasal corticosteroids, and nasal antihistamines, all available over the counter.

When these treatments aren't satisfactory, immunotherapy could be applied. Immunotherapy trains the immune system not to be sensitive to an allergen, small doses of which are introduced to a patient during the treatment.

You can also limit the exposure to pet allergens by taking the following steps:

  • Keep pets out of the bedroom where an allergic person sleeps.
  • Encase mattresses and pillows in special allergen-proof fabric covers.
  • Remove or replace carpets.
  • Vacuum regularly using a cleaner with a HEPA filter, but when the person with allergies is not present.
  • Keep pets off furniture and out of cars.
  • Bathe dogs at least twice a week.
  • Wash your hands and clothes after playing with your pet.
  • Avoid contact with soiled litter.
  • Dust often with a damp cloth.

The upcoming vaccines may provide long-term relief for individuals with cat and dog allergies, allowing more people to enjoy the company of pets.

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