Nothing to sneeze at

There may be hope for people who are allergic to cats, one that doesn’t involve finding a new home for a beloved pet. A new study on cat allergies is currently being conducted by Trinity Health Allergy/Immunology specialists Michael Reder, MD, and Sean Stanga, MD, and they are seeking participants in a study that could pave the way for development of a new form of cat allergy treatment.

“Basically, we’re looking at a way to potentially make it easier and safer for patients to be treated for cat allergy,” said Reder, the study’s primary investigator. “We’re hoping to enroll as many people as possible.”

According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, as many as 25 percent of Americans may suffer from cat allergy. This includes 14 percent of children between the ages of 6 and 19 years. Reder’s and Stanga’s study has an age range criteria of 12 to 65 years.

“We’re looking for cat allergic people who have a pet cat. These are people who have allergy symptoms, who know or suspect that they’re allergic to cats, and who actually have a cat that lives with them indoors,” Reder said.

Specifically, Reder said they’re looking for patients with one cat that is in their home for eight hours a day. The testing will be done at the Allergy and Immunology department at Trinity Health Center- Medical Arts and patients will be screened to determine qualifications and disqualifications. Patients who qualify will be enrolled in the study from the current time to the end of April.

People who are interested in participating but aren’t sure if they are candidates may log on to (www.thecatallergystudy.com) to see if they pre-qualify. The screening process will determine whether they meet the study’s criteria. All study related exams, lab services and study medications are free, and compensation for time and travel may be available. Enrolling in the study will help advance scientific research and make a better cat allergy treatment possible.

In this study, Reder said the patient will be given gradually increasing doses of cat allergen that desensitizes and makes the person less allergic. The study helps improve allergy shots, too, he added. Allergy shots carry some risk because it’s giving someone what he or she is allergic to, Reder continued.

The patient will receive a small dose of cat allergy protein once a month over eight months and the results will be recorded, Reder said. There will also be a placebo control study group who won’t know if they’re receiving the placebo or the drug, he added.

“Cat allergy is a potent one,” Reder said. “The allergens found in cat hair and skin are in every single American household whether they have cats or not. That’s because the allergens stick to clothes, sticks to shoes, and blow in the wind; it’s everywhere. Obviously, it’s in a lot higher concentration if you have a cat. It causes all the same kinds of normal allergy symptoms runny nose, stuffy nose, sneezing, and itchy, watery eyes. Potentially it can cause more severe reactions like asthma attacks, hives or rashes.”

Additionally, cat allergy is usually found in all cats. “It’s not like dog allergies, where there’s so much variation in the species,” Reder noted. “It’s not like dog allergies where there’s so much variation in the species. If you’re allergic to one cat, you’re pretty much allergic to every cat, except maybe a hairless one.”

The number one advice for cat allergic people is to remove the pet from the environment, but that’s not always possible. “Pets are like family members,” Reder said. “If a cat has been in your family for a long time, it’s hard to say you need to get rid of it. That’s why we do allergy shots.”

The treatment under study represents an improvement over current therapies, according to Reder. For example, it can be administered monthly compared to treatments that need to be given more frequently. “We’re always looking for ways to

improve our care for patients, including treatments that are easier, safer and more effective,” he added. “That’s what this study is trying to do.”

This new study is basically trying to look at immunotherapy that triggers long-term memory response without triggering a potentially dangerous antibody response system, Reder continued, and that’s what makes this safer. “This could potentially revolutionize the way we do allergy shots.”

For more information about allergies or asthma, contact Reder or Stanga at 857-7387. For questions about the cat allergy study, call Trinity’s Clinical Studies Department at 857-2510.