About Allergy Vaccine
The term allergy vaccine seems a bit misleading to me. Some people associate a type of permanent immunity with the word vaccine. Indeed, some vaccines in our history have been extremely successful, such as those for smallpox and polio. When it comes to allergies, however, I’m not sure there’s anything permanent about the vaccines that are under development. So don’t throw away your tissues yet, allergy sufferers; your symptoms may be with you for a while yet.
Larche's Peptide Immunotherapy
An immunology specialist from Canada named Mark Larche is in the process of developing an “advanced allergy shot” or allergy vaccine that will eliminate allergies more quickly than the current immunology shots that are often administered by doctors. In Lache’s initial work, he hopes to develop a vaccine for both ragweed allergy and cat allergy; allergies which both plague up to 20% of the U.S. population.
As you may know, traditional allergy shots are not perfect; they have some distinct disadvantages. First, they can be risky because doctors inject patients with the actual substance they are allergic to. That’s the reason why patients must sit at the doctor’s office for a period of time after the shot; the doctor needs to know if the patient is going to have a dangerous or life-threatening reaction to the injection. Next, allergy shots can be a very long, drawn-out process which can take up to five years. Finally, at the beginning of immunotherapy treatment, patients usually make several trips to the doctor’s office per week, and only much later are patients able to maintain their immunity with a monthly injection.
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Known as peptide immunotherapy, Larche’s treatment is different from traditional immunotherapy in two important ways. Regular immunotherapy uses serums that contain the entire substance or allergen that patients are allergic to. Larche doesn’t do that; he uses pieces of allergen that are incomplete. These incomplete pieces of allergen are artificially produced protein strands known as peptides, and the body does not seem to have an immune reaction to them. Also, whereas conventional allergy shots can take years to complete, Larche feels his patients will have
success with just one allergy vaccine shot per month, and four to eight doses per year may be needed. When will patients be completely through with their treatment? As of now, that seems uncertain.
While other doctors have been working on similar strategies in order to create an allergy vaccine, Larche has already given his experimental treatment to hundreds of patients, and he believes his vaccine will be approved for the general population in approximately 2014. You may be wondering what the results have been so far with patients who have tried Larche’s allergy vaccine. In my opinion, the results so far have been
less than stellar. Patients who have received the Larche vaccine in initial trials report that their allergy symptoms, such as itching, wheezing, and post nasal drip, have been reduced by about 50%.
Dr. Cretico's Vaccine
In 2006, progress in the development of an allergy vaccine was also made by Dr. Peter socrates Creticos of Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. This work seems to rely on the fact that Th2 (T-helper) cells and their immune system response, which is a significant part of allergic responses in humans, could be shut down by a particular DNA sequence.
In order to make an effective allergy vaccine, Dr. Creticos took the DNA sequence that is capable of shutting down immune system reponses and attached the sequence to a small portion of ragweed pollen. Whereas Th2 cells typically react to ragweed pollen during an allergic response, Creticos’ vaccine discourages the Th2 cells from overreacting. How effective has Dr. Creticos’ vaccine been thus far?
In a pilot study involving 25 subjects, 14 subjects were given a vaccine injection once per week for 6 weeks. Those individuals that were given the vaccine, as opposed to a placebo, experienced a 60% reduction in their allergic reactions to ragweed. Moreover, the drop in allergy symptoms in the vaccine group of subjects continued the following year, with no booster vaccine shot needed.
Another allergy vaccine is on the horizon from Swiss researchers. In 2010, these scientists reported they were making progress on a vaccine that may eliminate the symptoms of asthma, hay fever, eczema, and even peanut allergies, and that the vaccine could be available to patients within five years. This vaccine seems different from the previous two discussed above, in that it can purportedly fend off multiple allergies.
The vaccine is called CYT003-Qbg10, and its main component is synthetic DNA, much like the DNA that causes tuberculosis. This DNA seems to trick the human body into believing it is in danger of being invaded by a dangerous disease, and this begins a multi-faceted immune response by the body. More specifically, this allergy vaccine stimulates a critical part of the immune system through Toll-like receptors (TLRs), or sensors that recognize viral or bacterial threats. A typical anti-microbial immune response is induced, but a type 2 immune response, the kind that
lead to asthma or allergy, is prevented.
Two small experimental trials yielded results that were promising. In a trial of 63 patients with asthma who were given a series of vaccine injections over three months, asthma symptoms were reduced by about one third. In another trial, subjects were given a vaccine injection once a week for six weeks. Allergy symptoms in these subjects were reduced by
about 39%, with a quality of life improvement of about 42%. Cytos
Biotechnology, a Zurich firm, is developing the CYT003-QbG10 vaccine.
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