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.
_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 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.
_For 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!