Allergic to cats? Most of the problem is to do with you! About 15-25 percent of people are allergic to cats to varying degrees1. The blame for being allergic to cats should be shifted from the cat to people.
If we are to apportion blame or fault, and some people do, new research3 indicates that people are more to blame than the cat. Here is the argument behind that statement.
A cat allergen is something that causes an allergic reaction. The cat allergen that causes a cat allergy is called Fel D1. You can read about it on this page. Let’s just say it is in cat dander and cat dander contains dead skin cells. Fel D1 is a protein on these skin cells that comes from cat saliva and glands in the skin and it is very small. You can forget the rest of the science, I think. All animals with skin shed millions of skin cells every 24 hours and that applies to people as well.
The Fel D1 allergen interacts with a bacterial toxin that is common in the environment. The toxin is called Lipopolysaccharide (LPS). This toxin is a major part of a certain type of bacteria that is found in the gut of people. This type of bacteria is called “gram-negative”.
The interaction between Fel D1 and this toxin causes the allergic reaction in people. An allergic reaction occurs when the person’s immune system overreacts causing sneezing, itching and watery eyes etc. A person’s immune system incorrectly sees the cat dander as an invading health hazard when it is not2.
To recap. The cat sheds skin cells just like us. A substance on the dead skin cells that mainly come from a cat’s saliva reacts with a toxin that comes from bacteria in us. That reaction causes the person’s immune system to be confused and it overreacts causing the allergic reaction.
In that scenario or chain of events where, on balance, do you think the blame for a cat allergy lies? The answer has to be people.
But for the toxin produced by bacteria in our gut there would no allergic reaction.
Fortunately, this research opens the door to a “cure” of sorts for the cat allergy. There is a treatment that stops the specific response (TLR4 response) of the human’s body, under these conditions, that causes the allergic reaction.
We will see what happens next. Any cure for the cat allergy is worth millions.
Associated page: Top breeds for allergies
- University of Cambridge researchers. I am yet to see the actual document.
- 3D rendering of the Fel d 1 dimer, the primary allergen present in cat saliva – Wikimedia commons file
- The cat dandruff photo is copyright Michael at PoC.