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Purina finds ‘revolutionary breakthrough’ for cat allergens

For the first time in history, Purina scientists have demonstrated a way to significantly reduce the active levels of the major cat allergen, Fel d1, at its source in cats’ saliva.

As many as one in five adults worldwide are sensitised to cat allergens.

Avoiding cats is the most common way people manage allergens, an approach that may leave cats looking for a new home. Taking advantage of natural allergen-antibody interactions, Purina researchers discovered how to safely neutralise Fel d1 in hair and dander by incorporating an egg product containing anti-Fel d1 antibodies into a cat’s diet.

Ultimately this will reduce active Fel d1 levels in the environment.

This approach maintains normal allergen production by the cat, without affecting the cat’s overall physiology. This method, presented by Purina scientists at the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology Congress 2019, can transform the way people manage cat allergens as it reduces exposure to the allergen, but not to the cat.

Immunologist Dr. Ebenezer Satyaraj, director of molecular nutrition at Purina and lead investigator on the research, said: “These allergens have created a huge barrier to cat ownership and may limit the loving interactions between cat lovers and cats. Our discovery has the potential to transform how people manage cat allergens.”

Contrary to a popular perception, there are no truly hypoallergenic cats. All cats produce Fel d1 – regardless of breed, age, hair length, hair color, sex, or body weight. Up to 95% of reactions in cat allergen-sensitive people are caused by Fel d1. Produced primarily in cats’ salivary and sebaceous glands, Fel d1 is transferred to a cat’s hair and skin during grooming, then dispersed in the environment via hair and dander (dried flakes of skin).

A response in people sensitised to Fel d1 occurs when the allergen comes into contact with the individual and then binds with specialised immune defence proteins in their body. In this research, spanning more than a decade, Purina scientists found that an anti-Fel d1 antibody (IgY) can block specific sites on Fel d1 produced in cats’ saliva, thereby neutralising the allergen.

According to a Purina study, published in Immunity, Inflammation and Disease, when cats were fed a diet including this egg product with IgY, 97% showed decreased levels of active Fel d1 on the hair and dander. On average, there was a 47% reduction of active Fel d1 on cats’ hair after three weeks of feeding the diet. Decreasing active Fel d1 on a cat’s hair can reduce cat allergens shed into the environment on hair and dander.

Reducing the allergen load in the environment has been shown to be beneficial to allergen-sensitive people. This was validated in a recent environmentally-controlled study conducted by researchers at Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri.

As more results become available, the Purina Institute, an organisation which serves as the global voice of the company’s scientific communications, will share that information.

Dan Smith, vice president, research and development, Purina, added: “At Purina, we imagine a world where nutritional innovation can be life changing. We believe pets and people are better together. This breakthrough finding has the potential to improve the lives of cats and the people who love them.”

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