The Cat’s Out of the Bag!

As the holidays approach, our travel will be limited by #COVID-19, but we still may visit relatives with #cats, and you’re allergic! Researchers from Nestle Purina Research in St Louis MO may have part of the answer. As cats groom (which they do all the time), Fel d 1 is distributed within the hair coat and can then be shed with the #cat hair and dander. Not good news if you suffer from cat allergy. And worse news for your relatives!

We spend our careers as allergists figuring out what can reduce cat dander symptoms in allergic patients–allergy immunotherapy can certainly be helpful, but what if we could just change the cat? That would be fantastic! USA Today has run an article on changing your cat food to Purina Pro Plan to do exactly just that–change what your cat is eating and change the allergen they shed to make you wheeze & sneeze! Look at the link below before it expires to find out more! What allergen is important from cats? Try Fel d1 as a starter. Super cat food!

As an allergist, I deal with IgE and IgG, but never IgY. This is an antibody made by chickens, and transferred to their eggs to provide passive immunity to their offspring. Anti-Fel d1 IgY can be produced in chickens, and harvested to neutralize active cat allergen or Fel d1 in live cats. Pretty neat huh? And better yet, Feline (or cat) diets with added anti-Feld1 IgY reduces the allergic cat dander that makes cat-allergic patients sneeze & wheeze when exposed to a cat. This treatment is safe for cats, and for humans you don’t have to completely eliminate Fel d1, just reduce it’s expression in cat dander to reduce human symptoms. Combined with cat dander immunotherapy (cat dander shots), this should enhance your ability to be exposed to cats and not have to stay in a hotel while you’re visiting your relatives.

This is a preliminary study and I would like to see the following additions:

  1. Good medical research always uses a placebo controlled trial and I’m sure the authors have this plan in the works. That means ~50% of participants don’t feed their cats anti-Feld 1 IgY and the other half do. Compare the difference and you’ll find out soon enough if the super cat food really works.
  2. It would be interesting to compare changing your cat diet with the use of allergy immunotherapy (shots). Which one is more effective, and has a lower cost? Can you or should you use both treatments together for better results, rather than always using medications.
  3. I would like to see scientific data such as the above article published in mainstream Journals such as Annuals of Allergy or American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology just to increase readership and recommendations to cat-owning patients about options for their pet allergies. I really didn’t know if this strategy of reducing cat dander could be achieved when I was a resident in training, but leave it to genetic modification to take the first steps. As with any new medical treatment, you make improvements with time and who knows how much allergen we could reduce by genetic modification. I would predict the allergens in foods could be reduced in a similar fashion, but that’s a topic for the future!

The above article is a pilot study–meaning other larger studies are needed to confirm these results. This has demonstrated that feeding cats a diet with an egg product ingredient containing anti-Fel d 1 IgY decreases the environmental Fel d 1 levels in a controlled environment and produces a significant improvement in Total Nasal Symptom Score and some ocular symptoms in cat-allergic human subjects. Maybe there is an alternative to removing the cat from the home, as many cat owners consider their cats to be members of the family and are not willing to re-home or relinquish their cat. And that’s what holidays are all about, right? Spending time with family including the family feline. So remember, Purina Pro Plan LiveClear may reduce the allergen produced by your cat and sounds to me like a good holiday choice!