Allergic Asthma? There's a Shot for That

Vaccination for allergic asthma using dust mite protein was effective in mice

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Asthma treatment is getting a shot in its arm. A new study highlights how vaccination can be an effective alternative to inhalers.

A vaccination that uses DNA of a protein from dust mites was effective in reducing sensitivity to this allergen and reduced asthma symptoms.

Vaccination would not only treat the immediate asthma-related symptoms but would also act as a way to reduce asthma severity and allergy sensitivity.

"Ask your doctor about ways to reduce allergy symptoms."

The study was led by Bruno Pitard, Ph.D., Director of the Biotherapy Innovations team at the Institut du thorax (CNRS/Inserm) at the University of Nantes. Researchers developed the vaccine using a common cause of allergic asthma, protein from a dust mite.

Using this vaccine, researchers tested the effectiveness as a treatment for allergy sensitivity and asthma-related symptoms.

Allergic asthma occurs when the body's immune system reacts to a specific protein that it believes is a threat. The immune system response causes inflammation in the bronchial tubes of the lungs making it difficult to breathe and triggering asthma-related symptoms.

According to the study, more than 300 million individuals have allergic asthma and it kills over 250,000 people each year.

Over 50 percent of patients with a dust mite allergy produce a specific antibody against the dust mite protein, Dermatophagoides farinae 1 (Derf1), note researchers. Using this common allergen, the researchers began developing a vaccine using certain parts of the Derf1 DNA.

This approach is similar to immunotherapy, where an allergy sufferer is given increasingly larger doses of an allergen to reduce sensitivity. According to the researchers, this approach has had mixed results in humans and results differ greatly from person to person.

The vaccine was used in asthmatic mice models and was administered twice a week for three weeks. Rather than the normal reaction to an allergen which could cause asthma-related symptoms, the vaccine changes how the body reacts to the allergen. The vaccine causes the body to produce Derf1 antibodies and causes the cells of the body to react in a protective manner that does not trigger allergies or asthma.

In mice, the vaccine reduced dust mite allergen sensitivity and reduced levels of inflammation. For researchers, this is a positive step forward. Future studies would need to determine the effectiveness and safety of the vaccine in humans. From there, clinical trials would have to be passed before the vaccine could be used by the general population. 

No funding information was provided. This study was published in the March edition of Human Gene Therapy.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
April 10, 2012
Last Updated:
April 10, 2012