Nestlé Purina has been researching the effects of an antibody on the allergy-causing protein found in cats, called Fel d1, which reduces an allergic response in humans, according to ScienceNews.
The Fel d1 protein is produced in cats’ salivary and sebaceous glands. Cats then transfer the protein to their hair when they lick themselves in order to groom. Up to 20 percent of people then experience an allergic response to cat hair and dander (dead skin), and Fel d1 is responsible for 95 percent of allergic reactions to cats.
The antibody cannot be given to humans, as the molecules are broken down in the gut, according to Michael Blaiss, the executive medical director of the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. However, when the antibody is added to cat food, it neutralizes the protein in their saliva, which limits its ability to spread to the cat’s hair and dander.
Although the role of Fel d1 in cat physiology is unknown, the cats that have been fed the food containing the antibody have not seen any adverse effects.
The new treatment is expected to help people with mild cat allergies, but the protein is only reduced by an average of 47 percent, so those with extreme allergies may not find relief.
Purina will not yet offer products that contain the antibodies, but will conduct further research to determine its effectiveness.