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Posted by kevvyg on Monday, November 17, 2014
As research continues to point to the links between some of the tiniest organisms on the planet and our health, we learn more and more regarding the vital role microbes play in the immune response. From allergies to skin conditions (like eczema) to gastrointestinal dysfunction, and now tuberculosis (TB), the absence (or presence) of microbes like bacteria can play a critical roles in the development, and increasingly, the cure for these problems.

Old Poster, Solid AdviceAs the latest example of the role bacteria can play in overcoming these diseases, Spanish scientists presented clinical trial results to the 45th Conference on Lung Health in Barcelona. Though this conference or much of the information presented hardly registered a blip in the news, there were many items of importance that surfaced. As previously demonstrated on mice and now hundreds of volunteers, a probiotic derived from a specific bacteria has been shown to moderate the immune response to tuberculosis. When used for two weeks the probiotic essentially teaches the body how to tolerate the mycobacterium tuberculosis preventing the resulting lung infection that is the hallmark of TB.

While the immune system fights disease, in the case of TB, it can actually aid in the progression of the infection. Microphages, a type of white blood cell, engulf and digest debris and microbes within our body. Once the immune system identifies the TB bacteria as a threat, microphages set out to engulf and digest them. Often though, the bacteria isn't destroyed and instead replicates and ultimately kills off the microphage. The probiotic, by encouraging the immune system to ignore the bacteria, reduces its ability to become an active infection and tamps down the inflammation response that is key to this.

While TB was nearly eradicated during the 1950s, thanks to antibiotics, the bacteria has resurfaced in a more virulent active form that is resistant to many of the common antibiotics that have worked in the past. TB affects tens of millions annually and currently requires extensive and often expensive treatments. Culture of TuberculosisThis makes the Nyaditum resae (name of the new probiotic) even more newsworthy since use requires weeks, not months or years, and the projected cost is about $5 (Yup, FIVE BUCKS!). Here in the U.S., the cost to treat TB can range from as low as $17,000 to as high as $430,000 (for the most drug resistant strains). Instances of TB in the U.S. is relatively low, just over 9500 cases in 2013.

Nyaditum resae is to be first available in India where nearly 1.5 million incidences of TB surface annually. While the initial article I came across used the "c" word, as in cure, that is not quite the case. However, if the probiotic can manage to successfully retrain the immune response to the bacteria, it could theoretically prevent the active, contagious form of the disease, and for most, that's just as good as eradicating it.

A full list of abstracts from the 45th World Conference on Lung Health. Probiotics and TB Treatment

More Posts on the Link Between Microbes and Our Health:
Positive Link Between Absence of Gut Bacteria and Allergy Development
Fungi Diversity In Lungs Link to Asthma
Bacteria Triggers Allergic Response?
Hygiene Hypothesis and Stomach Bacteria

Author: K. Gilmore

Figures courtesy of CDC.gov and TBFacts.org

Posted by R. Power on Saturday, October 18, 2014
Allerdent by Allovent ­ImmunotherapyWhile immunotherapy is the most effective method for allergy management, it's more difficult to make it as much of a habit as say, brushing your teeth.... until now? You soon may be able to do just that immunotherapy WHILE brushing your teeth! Allergy patients at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City are currently brushing with Allerdent, a specially formulated immunotherapy toothpaste delevoped by Dr. William Reisacher and Allovate, LLC. Allovate, LLC. is a start up pharmaceutical company, specializing in innovative and improved approaches to allergy immunotherapy. Using Allerdent as their product platform this could be the next big thing to replace our traditional immunotherapy treatments that are currently in use.

Brushing Your Way to Allergy Relief"If you can contact those extracts with the lining of the mouth then you can desensitize patients to those allergens and essentially cure them of their allergies" explains Dr. Reisacher. Allerdent will be customized to each person's needs, containing the specific allergen(s) that the patient is allergic to. Dereck Lacarubba is a patient who currently participates in this Allerdent experiment, and is allergic to cats, dogs, tree pollen and dust. He claims that it works and tastes just like regular fluoride toothpaste. Further, he says it's been helping him with his environmental allergies day after day.

The current options for allergy immunotherapy (IT) are Subcutaneous Immunotherapy (SCIT), better known as allergy shots, or daily Sublingual Immunotherapy Treatment (SLIT), drops under the tongue. However, there are many obstacles that contribute to less than 5% of allergy rhinitis patients actually receiving either of these types of immunotherapy.

Allergy shots are costly, time consuming, weekly visits for three to five years (and we know how long doctor visits take), and the presence of needles is a problem some, both adults and children alike. SLIT drops are to be taken everyday, and placed under you tongue for two minutes. Like birth control or acid reflux medicine, you can't skip a day or else it will not be as effective as it should be. For many, this stringent routine is difficult to maintain. SLIT is also a method that is currently NOT endorsed by the FDA. That lack of endorsement adds some measure of skepticism to this method allergy immunotherapy.

One Habit, Two Positive Benefits?Allerdent is a very innovative yet simple idea, that takes your existing routine, brushing your teeth, and adds in the practice of receiving immunotherapy. This simple yet novel approach is what makes Allerdent so promising. I would love to kill two birds with one stone, keeping my oral hygiene up while having the ability to snuggle up to a cat without the tidal wave of congestion and itchy, watery eyes that currently accompanies it. I'm sure others are also excited to cross off biweekly doctor's visits from their agendas or cease taking medications that aren't currently FDA approved. Either way, novel approaches like this, regardless of outcome, present a new twist to traditional treatment and pavethe way for the better treatments of the future.

For more information about Allovate or Allerdent.

Author: R. Power

Posted by kevvyg on Wednesday, October 15, 2014
I've avoided writing about this topic for about as long as possible, but with my entire family being in Ohio, two nurses in the family, and the recent revelation about a second Dallas nurse who tested positive for Ebola a day after visiting family in Akron, OH, it seems like a good time to finally broach the topic. This isn't to say we've not had our share of call from people concerned with Ebola, because as the days have ticked by the frequency of calls has steadily climbed. So I wanted to go over a few things about Ebola, how it spreads, and touch on some things in terms of prevention. And keep in mind, while the first part of this is rather serious (and should be), there is some levity at the end.

Halloween is Almost Here, but This Is NOT Gummy Worms - The Ebola Virus Under a MicroscopeFirst, though cases have been numbered in the single digits here in the U.S., Ebola has affected the African continent for the better part of four decades. Though known for that long, what this latest outbreak has shown us is that the American public knew little of the disease and that while infections can spread quickly in an increasingly interconnected world, panic and fear always spread faster.

Ebola is a virus that first made itself in 1976, and as of now, unless you're one of the tiny percent of East Africans who are naturally immune or have had and survived the disease, there is no known immunity or vaccine.

Just as a disclaimer, this description can be a bit intense for some readers. The Ebola virus attaches itself to cells, then once inside the cell replicates and causes the cell to burst, destroying the cell and spreading further. This bursting of cells is what triggers your body's inflammatory reaction - the flu-like symptoms of a fever, vomiting, severe headache, and weakness. The virus then attacks the immune system and uses it spread throughout the body. Ebola attacks all organs and disrupts the natural blood clotting process, causing what appears to be a rash under the skin and other internal bleeding. This is also where the name "hemorrhagic fever" comes from. The destruction of cells and organs (organ failure) coupled with bleeding internally and externally is what causes the high mortality rates (nearly 60%) that we see with the Ebola virus.

So how does Ebola spread? It is EXTREMELY important to remember that though deadly, Ebola can only be spread by coming in contact with the bodily fluids of someone who is infected or items that have been contaminated by these things. It is NOT spread through the air. It is NOT spread through water. Symptoms can occur any time within twenty-one days of infection, but up until someone exhibits symptoms, they are not contagious.

Not to make light of the situation, but before fear completely takes hold, it's a good idea to ask a couple questions. Have I been around someone who has Ebola? Have I been in contact with the bodily fluids of someone who has Ebola? If I answer "no" to these questions, then good news, I'm very likely ok! Yes, that's simplistic, but when you consider that this virus ONLY spreads by coming in contact with these things, you can see why it's a good idea to ask these questions before becoming overly fearful. As of this moment in time, you're more likely to be bitten by Luis Suarez (soccer player from World Cup) than to contract Ebola.

Still, with sensationalized coverage on every cable news channel, it's not difficult to get swept up into the fear of "what do I do?!" And it's at this time, that it is good to remember the basics, some of the very same things that are recommended to help prevent the spread of other viruses.Combatting Ebola - Overkill For Most of Us
  • Wash your hands. Scrubby, scrubby! Thoroughly washing your hands is the most basic and easiest way to prevent the spread of any virus. Remember, hot water, and you don't have to do this aloud, but sing through "Happy Birthday" twice, and you've likely got them good and clean.
  • Use hand sanitizer. Avoid ones with triclosan if possible and instead opt for an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Stop touching your face. At the very least, pay more attention to how often you do this. The average person touches his/her face 3-4 times per hour. Assuming you sleep eight hours, that's 50-60 times a day! Viruses enter the body, most often, through the mucous membranes of your eyes, nose and mouth or through broken skin.
There are additional things you can do, but the three listed above are the most basic and most helpful. Face masks are an option, but since the virus isn't airborne, wearing a mask most likely helps you by preventing you from touching your face. For healthcare professionals dealing with someone who is actually infected with Ebola, a HEPA respirator is a critical piece of personal protective gear, but for most of us however, an N95 (or better rated) mask will be very helpful in preventing the spread of the flu or Enterovirus D68.

Sign in Africa Telling You Handshakes Are Out But 'A Node' Is OK!You can also cut back on the handshakes. Seriously, limiting personal contact can be helpful in preventing the spread of any virus, but again, if the other person doesn't have the flu, Ebola or some other virus, or if you're not currently living in East Africa, this may be helpful but not terribly so.

Would an air purifier help? For Ebola, no. Again, it's NOT airborne. However, an air purifier equipped with UV or with antimicrobial filters WILL help with the flu and other airborne, seasonal viruses. Cleaning more is also good general advice. Disinfectants, when used properly, can kill microbes and germs that spread viruses. Lastly, avoid contact with bats. Bat soup should be off the table this Halloween.*

Is Ebola scary? Yes. Is it easy to catch? Unless you work in a profession where you are likely to come in contact with it, no. Common sense can be a very good friend when it comes to things like this, while fear and panic can spread faster and farther than any virus.

My mother is a nurse, but where she works, she is highly unlikely to come in contact with anyone remotely affected, so honestly, I worry more about her catching the flu repeatedly. My family all lives in Ohio, but again, the likelihood of any of them coming in contact with the bodily fluids of someone who has the virus is remote. A family member of mine will be flying in the coming weeks, and for her I've a bottle of hand sanitizer, and a mask - the exact same things I used when I flew this past spring, when Ebola was but a passing story on a far away continent.

*Seriously, "avoid contact with bats... and raw meat prepared from these animals" is stated on the CDC site.

For more information, visit the CDCs Ebola site or for more information on this current outbreak, I’ve found this site to give a well-rounded view of the topic.

Author:
K. Gilmore

How the Ebola Virus is NOT Spread

Tags: Masks
Posted by kevvyg on Wednesday, August 27, 2014
In the last two years, there has been an incredible amount of research into what is called the human microbiome - the wide variety of microorganisms that live on and in us. It is still a difficult concept for many of us to wrap our heads around, but research has shown that the cells of all the microbes on and inside of us actually outnumber the total cells that make up the human body and by a pretty wide margin. Only recently have we started to consider the larger roles these tiny cohabitants play in our lives and in our health. Last year I wrote a piece about fungi in the lungs and how the types and numbers of them found in those with asthma vs. control patients varied. More recently, a research piece published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) highlights the link between bacteria in the gut and food allergies.

Mice, Peanut Allergies & Gut Bacteria - Probiotic Solution to Food Sensitivities?Researchers started by examining the role gut bacteria play in food sensitivities and food allergies in two groups of mice. Playing on the "hygiene hypothesis" researchers put together one group of mice that were raised in a sterile environment. In the other group, the mice were given a large dose of antibiotics at just two weeks of age. After being given peanut extract, both groups were observed, and from here researchers began introduction specific groups of bacteria to see if they had any effect on the allergic response. Specifically, Bacteroides and Clostridia bacteria groups were the focus, two types that are commonly found in wild mice.

The results were very interesting. First, mice that were given antibiotics showed a high sensitivity to the peanut extract. Antibiotics given early in life have recently been shown to be linked to a myriad Clostridia Bacteria Introduced Into Gut Reduced Peanut Sensitivityof problems later on, including things like the development of allergies and asthma. Of the second group, the reaction to the peanut allergen was even more severe with some showing signs of anaphylaxis. While the introducing Bacteroides into the gut of mice had little effect, Clostridia was another story.

In both groups of mice, the introduction of Clostridia bacteria into the mice resulted in reduced allergic responses to the peanut allergen. This is extremely important for two reasons. First, it shows a link between specific gut bacteria and the development of allergies, again highlighting the link between the microbiome and the health of the animal. Second, these results point toward the potential of treating food allergies with the use of probiotics.

This study also refines the "hygiene theory" somewhat. While traditionally, it was suggested that a lack of exposure to germs and microbes early on could lead to the immune system overreacting to innocuous substances like dust mites, peanuts, or pollen, these results would suggest that a more sterile environment or perhaps even an overuse of antibiotics could lead to less diverse and less numerous gut bacteria, which would in turn be setting the stage for allergen sensitivity.

While the notion of treating allergies or food sensitivities with probiotics are still many years away, this latest research solidifies the link between gut bacteria and allergies. More importantly, it opens the door for potentially novel, new treatments of allergies, asthma and possibly other allergic diseases.

To read the abstract of this study.

Author: KevvyG

Posted by kevvyg on Thursday, August 21, 2014
Tree nut and peanut allergies are some of the most common as well as some of the most commonly discussed food allergies. Without fail, every year we hear at least a handful of stories about those who are severely allergic coming in contact with and ultimately dying from food allergies. The standard way most deal with food allergies is with allergy shots (or another type of desensitization procedure) or strict avoidance. Yet neither is fullproof. A team of researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture are approaching this problem by not changing the person dealing with allergies but instead by changing the food.

Allergy-Free Cashews? Maybe!Allergy-free peanuts? While it may seem a bit farfetched, this is just what they are working on. Started with a cashew extract (oil), researchers are treating the proteins found in the oil with heat and sodium sulfite. You may recognize sodium sulfite, as it's a preservative commonly found in a variety of foods. What this process does is change the molecular look of reaction-causing protein in the cashew, making it more difficult for immunoglobin (IgE - the antibody that kicks off your body's response, aka, allergic reaction) to recognize and bind with the protein.

Test results showed that when mixing unmodified and modified cashew proteins with the IgE of a nut allergic person, 50% fewer of the IgE molecules bonded with the altered proteins. This is important for a few reasons. Even though this isn't the first experiment to attempt this, it is the first that uses a compound generally regarded as safe (GRAS) to disrupt the protein structure of the allergen. It is also important because unlike other treatments, it is aimed at treating the food, not the person. Lastly, its success shows the potential for reducing or possibly even eliminating the binding of IgE to food allergens, the root of the allergic response.

For now results show a allergy-reduced nut, which isn't as helpful a non-allergenic one. However, these results at least point towards the possibility of this as a solution. What's up next for researchers? Modifying whole cashews then ensuring the cashews still taste they way they should! Until then, avoidance remains the best option for most dealing with severe food allergies.

To read the full abstract of the research.

For more information on food allergies.

Author: K. Gilmore

Posted by kevvyg on Thursday, July 24, 2014
Vaccines have often been the subject of potential treatments for allergies, and as we've discussed before, a UK firm, Circassia, has been through several stages of testing a vaccine for cat allergies. Research recently released by a team working at the University of Iowa's College of Pharmacy takes the idea of an allergy vaccine and puts a new twist on it. It's this novel approach that is not only showing positive results but providing new hope for the tens of millions that cope with the dust mite allergy on a daily basis.

New Dust Mite Vaccine on the Horizon?Similar to the mechanism used with successful cancer vaccines, the new dust mite vaccine uses an adjuvant (an agent that enhances the body's immune response) in addition to the antigen (the substance that actually induces the immune system to produce antibodies). The way this works is a package (of the adjuvant and antigen) is introduced to a patient. The adjuvant essentially raises the alarm, calling the immune system forward to what it perceives as an "all hands on deck" situation. The immune system absorbs and disposes of the package, but the tangible result of this is speeding up the adsorption process and increasing the rate of absorption of the vaccine.

In this instance, the adjuvant (CpG) was packaged with the vaccine and given to mice. Not only was the package absorbed 90% of the time but subsequent daily exposure to the dust mite allergen Dust Mites Under a Microscope - The Most Common Allergy & Asthma showed higher production of antibodies and lower rates of lung inflammation. While more research is needed, this outcome is one of the very best that researchers could have hoped for.

With nearly 10% of the population allergic to dust mites, they are easily among the most common allergens on the planet. Often found in mattresses, carpet, upholstered furniture and bedding, dust mites are microscopic pests that feed on dead skin cells. They are one reason why your mattress can double in weight after ten years of use. Millions of these tiny creatures call your mattress home, and it is their tiny decomposing body parts and feces that cause the sneezing, wheezing, congestion, and coughing that are commonly associated with dust mite allergies.

The most common methods of coping with dust mite allergies often include a mix of several things, including allergen avoidance (the use of quality allergy bedding covers or a HEPA air purifier, more frequent cleaning and removal of carpet from the home), medication to the treat the symptoms (most commonly antihistamines), and allergy shots (to increase the tolerance of the allergen). Each of these tackle different aspects of the allergy, and even with promising research such as this, a vaccine or simpler longterm solution is still likely several years away.

Building Blocks - MoleculesFor more information, see the official University of Iowa press release.

Author: K. Gilmore

P.S. Just in case you were wondering what CpG stands for... the "C" is for cytosine triphospate deoxynucleotide. The "G" is for guanine triphosphate deoxynucleotide, and the "p" is for the phosphodiester that links the two nucleotides. You may recognize cytosine and guanine. They are two of the four bases of DNA (along with adenine and thymine), and that concludes today's biology lesson!

Posted by R. Power on Friday, May 23, 2014
Once in a while our customer service department receives calls asking what we suggest for traveling with allergies, most often, peanut allergies. As of now there is not much we can say aside from informing your airline of your allergies, wearing a mask and asking your doctor for any additional medical advice. But now we can tell our curious callers to fly with Swiss! Swiss Airlines has proudly earned ECARF (European Centre for Allergy Research Foundation) quality seal of approval in becoming the first allergy-minded airline on the globe!

Switzerland has a history of being a very innovative and efficient country, so it doesn’t surprise me that they would make such an impression with the airline industry as they have done with chocolate, banks and pharmaceuticals.

Here’s what their allergy-minded airline includes to minimize the presence of allergens within the cabin and lounge areas:
  • High efficiency air conditioning to filter out pollen, pet hair and dander and any airborne particulates on board.
  • Removal of air fresheners for flyers with chemical sensitivities.
  • Selection and use of hypoallergenic fabric for upholstered items.
  • In the lavatories they provide soap friendly for those with sensitive skin.
  • Your meal, snack and drink selections are free of glucose, lactose and a variety of other common allergens.
  • Swiss Airline cabin crew members are trained to respond, and are equipped with the histamine tablets in the case of allergic reactions and emergencies.
I think this is a great idea for an airline to specialize a plane for allergy prone travelers. Perhaps this will start a trend for other airlines, especially here in the U.S. If not, well, then twist my arm, I guess I'll have to book a flight to Switzerland to fly allergy-free. On second thought, how would I bring back my precious Swiss chocolate covered cheese snacks?

Author: R. Power

Just a reminder for those local to the Atlanta area, if you have peanut allergies but want to catch a game at Turner field Saturday as part of your Memorial Day Weekend, they do have a Peanut Free Section. Check out the Braves site for more details, and Have a Happy Memorial Day!

Posted by kevvyg on Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Yesterday, a US Food and Drug Administration advisory panel voted not to recommend Primatene HFA for over-the-counter sale. This is the latest in the attempt to bring a bronchodilator back to the over-the-counter market. There were two additional votes on the drug, and the mixed results could be reason for hope in seeing a new bronchodilator on the market in the future.

Primatene Mist - OTC BronchodilatorMany of you may recall seeing Primatene Mist on drugstore and market shelves when you were younger. For me, it was a common occurrence as my cousin, who suffers from severe asthma, would often have this inhaler with him. After spending time in the backyard with my cousins and brothers playing football, he would pull out his inhaler, flip the top and use it if his asthma flared up.

In 2011 Primatene Mist was phased out and removed from store shelves. These pocket-sized inhalers used chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) to propel the epinephrine out and into the lungs of the asthma sufferer. As part of an overall move away from CFC-based propellants, the axe finally fell on Primatene Mist in December of that year. Since then, the manufacturer, Armstrong Pharmaceuticals, has been attempting to gain OTC status for a replacement inhaler, the short-acting beta2-agonist (SABA) bronchodilator, Primatene HFA. Currently, the only forms of this type of drug available are prescribed. If you have asthma, you might be familiar with their names, albuterol and levalbuterol. However, there is some need for an OTC alternative, particularly in case of emergencies or when people run out of their prescription at inopportune times.

In addition to ultimately voting no to OTC use, the 25 member advisory panel also voted on the efficacy and safety of the new inhaler. While there is still another ongoing clinical trial, the panel discussed the results of two other clinical trials that showed significant results. On a vote over the efficacy, 14 yes votes won out.

Lastly, the panel discussed and voted on the safety of the proposed drug. Like most drugs, Primatene HFA did show some side effects, though even with the most severe side effect being tremors, all cases were mild. Other side effects were infrequent. A larger safety issue was likely found in the correct use of the inhaler. While the new inhaler uses an ozone-friendly propellant, the new formula is a suspension that can settle. Consequently, the inhaler must be primed four times before the first use and twice after two weeks of nonuse. It must also be washed and dried each day, and both of these present significant hurdles when it comes to ease-of-use and proper use. With regard to labeling, some members felt that patients may be led to believe that it is for daily use when only actually intended for intermittent use. All of these things resulted in 17 panel members voting no, in terms of safety.

The end result, for now, is that the new Primatene HFA will not be in pharmacy and store shelves any time soon, but the drug does show promise. It does work, and there is a need for it. Undoubtedly, Armstrong will revisit the inhaler and attempt to address issues of misuse or mishandling.

Author: K. Gilmore

Posted by R. Power on Monday, February 10, 2014
Immunotheraphy Treatment Offers Hope for Peanut Allergy SufferersMothers with children who have peanut allergies can find hope for relief in recent allergy studies. In a study recently published in the Lancet, Dr. Andrew Clark and his team conducted clinical trials testing immunotherapy treatments for children with peanut allergies. A treatment group of children with this allergy were fed small yet increasing amounts of peanut flour for a 6 month period. After the treatment, over 80% of the children were able to safely eat the equivalent of 5 peanuts a day, which is at least 25 times the quantity of peanut protein they could tolerate before the experiment. "As kids take an increasing amount, their immune systems start to change," said Dr. Clark. "They can tolerate peanuts more robustly."

Immunotherapy has been a successful form of allergy relief for wasp-sting allergies and grass pollen. At its core, immunotherapy is a long, slow process of reintroducing tiny amounts of a particular allergen to patients. Over time, the amounts of the substance patients ingest or are exposed to increases with that hope of leading to a higher, long term tolerance of the allergen. With regard to peanut allergies, this has been the most successful study so far, and gives hope to parents who are constantly on the lookout for even trace amounts of peanuts that can send the severely allergic into anaphylactic shock. In the future this type of treatment could relieve much of the worry associated with trace amounts of allergens causing severe reactions and help lift many of the precautionary diet restrictions those with food allergies often have to impose.

While we wait for more research, long term test results, and potential FDA approval for this treatment, avoidance remains one of the best options for those dealing with food allergies. Though peanut butter might not be one the menu just yet, here are some Peanut/ nut substitute suggestions without the risk of allergic reactions.
  • Sunflower seed butter
  • Soy nut butter
  • Hummus
All of these substitutes are easily found in local grocery stores, generally near the peanut butters. If any of you readers have suggestions on sunflower seed butter or soy nut butter brands, let me know, I’d love to try!

Author: R. Power

Posted by kevvyg on Tuesday, February 04, 2014
Circassia LTD - SPIRE Treatment - Cat AllergiesThis is a topic we've mentioned before throughout the years and originally back in 2011, a novel treatment for cat allergies that is less invasive, less time consuming and as effective as more traditional allergy shots. British drug maker, Circassia LTD, is currently accepting patients for a phase-three clinical trial with this new treatment. What does this mean for those with cat allergies? Potentially - a lot.

Like traditional allergy shots, the idea behind the treatment is to desensitize people who are allergic to cats. The big difference between this and traditional shots is two-fold. First, the shots are not subcutaneous, meaning they are more shallow and do not go beneath the skin. Second, the length of the proposed treatment would be significantly shorter, four to eight months as opposed to the more traditional three to five years worth of shots. This can not only make the process more convenient but hopefully less costly and invasive.

The current trial is accepting people who have had cat allergies for at least two years, have a cat living at home with them, and are between the ages of 12 and 65. As the largest clinical study of this treatment to date, the CATALYST (Cat Allergy Study) is accepting over 1100 volunteers from seven countries.

For people coping with cat allergies, this could be a dramatic step forward in treatment. Often times allergists recommend removing your cat from the household, and as one of the most common household pets, those with cat allergies often have allergic reactions outside of their own homes. One of the Most Common Household Allergens - Cat DanderCat dander is one of the smallest of common household allergens, and to make matters worse, it's "sticky". This means that in places where cats have been, it's often extremely difficult to remove cat dander since it adheres to walls, furnishings, and flooring, nearly everything in a room. Nearly one in three households have cats. In addition to allergies, there is also a link to asthma reactions and cats, with one study showing over a quarter of asthma attacks being triggered by cat allergen. So, the potential that a shorter, less invasive and successful treatment holds a great deal of hope for the millions with allergies or asthma.

The basis of the treatment is the proprietary ToleroMune technology. Molecules called SPIRES (Synthetic Peptide Immuno-Regulatory Epitopes) generate regulatory T cells. These T cells control the allergic response and stimulate tolerance of specific allergens.

Circassia is also working on a similar treatment for dust mite allergies, and back in September of 2013 they announced results of their phase-two trials. In this study, patients who had received four doses of the treatment over 12 weeks showed significant improvement one year after the start of the trial. This smaller phase-two study will likely in the steps of the cat allergy trials. With success, they will move on to larger, clinical, phase-three trials. In addition dust mites, Circassia has also finished phase-two trials of the same treatment for ragweed and grass allergies.

While we continue to patiently wait and hope, avoidance and more traditional measures, like the use of a high quality HEPA air purifier or antihistamines remain some of the best way to reduce allergic reactions to cat.

For more information on these phase-three clinical trials, contact your local certified allergist or visit the clinicaltrials.gov website

Author: K. Gilmore

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