UK scientists have uncovered clues as to how the allergic reactions to cats is caused, increasing the chance of finding a preventative medicine.
Cats are one of the most popular house pets in the UK
Researchers from the University of Cambridge have discovered the process where the body’s immune system detects cat allergen, leading to symptoms such as sneezing and coughing.
A new treatment to prevent this process has raised hopes of developing medicines to help sufferers.
The team, led by Dr Clare Bryant from the University of Cambridge, investigated cat dander, the proteins found in particles of cat skin which are the most common cause of cat allergy.
Cat allergen was found to activate a specific process in the human body once in the company of a bacterial toxin. This pathway triggers the body’s natural immune system defences such as sneezing, wheezing and a runny nose.
Cats are one of the most common causes of pet allergies and symptoms can arise within minutes of contact with cats.
Dr Bryant spoke to BBC News: "We've discovered how the cat allergy proteins activate the host immune cells.
"By understanding the triggering mechanism, there are now drugs that have been designed that are in clinical trials for other conditions, such as sepsis, that could potentially then be used in a different way to treat cat allergy and to prevent cat allergy."
Allergy UK, a charity focused on all types of allergies, believes the research is a big step forward in comprehending why and how cat allergens cause severe allergic reactions.
Maureen Jenkins, director of clinical services at Allergy UK, said: “Cat allergen is particularly difficult to avoid as it is a 'sticky' molecule that is carried into every building on people's shoes and clothes.
"It can also still be found in a home, on the walls and ceiling or fittings, even a few years after a cat has ceased to live there.”
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