Cat allergies affect millions of Americans. They bring a range of uncomfortable symptoms, including stuffy noses, sneezing, scratchy throats, watery, itchy eyes, and itchy rashes. In severe cases, they can make it hard to breathe.
Traditional allergy shots, also called allergen immunotherapy, are a common treatment for cat allergies. These shots slowly make you less sensitive to allergens, which eases symptoms over time. But they can take a long time to work, and they don’t work for everyone.
An early-stage study funded by NIH found that a combination of allergy shots and another medication may treat cat allergies more effectively.
What are cat allergens, anyway?
Cat allergens are tiny proteins found in cat skin, saliva, and urine.
It’s the allergens (and not the cat itself!) that can cause allergic reactions in humans who encounter them. Cat dander can still cause allergies even if the cat is not around.
A promising treatment
The CATNIP study was supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. It included 121 adults with a history of cat allergies. Participants were randomly assigned to different treatment groups. One group received a medication called tezepelumab in addition to traditional allergy shots. The rest got allergy shots alone, tezepelumab alone, or placebo for both (placebos are inactive substances that look like real medicine).
Participants who received the combined treatment had less severe symptoms when exposed to cat allergens than those who got the allergy shot alone. The study also found that some benefits of the combined treatment lasted for at least one year after treatment ended.
How it works
Tezepelumab is a type of medication called a monoclonal antibody. Monoclonal antibodies are immune proteins made in a lab to target specific diseases or conditions in the body. Tezepelumab works by blocking specific signals between the cells that cause allergic inflammation and typical allergic reactions such as itching, sneezing, and runny nose. In other words, it helps relieve allergy symptoms by targeting the source.
Scientists are still studying tezepelumab. They want to know how the drug works inside our cells. This could help scientists better understand what’s happening at the cellular level, leading to even more effective allergy treatments in the future.