Researchers at Purina have demonstrated a "revolutionary," proactive way to significantly reduce the active levels of the major cat allergen Fel d1 at its source in cats' saliva.
Taking advantage of natural allergen-antibody interactions, Purina researchers discovered how to safely neutralize Fel d1 in hair and dander by incorporating an egg product containing anti-Fel d1 antibodies into a cat's diet, an announcement from Purina said.
Ultimately, this will reduce active Fel d1 levels in the environment, the company explained, adding that the approach maintains normal allergen production by the cat and does not affect the cat's overall physiology.
The method, presented by Purina scientists at the European Academy of Allergy & Clinical Immunology Congress 2019, can transform the way people manage cat allergens; it reduces exposure to the allergen but not to the cat.
"These allergens have created a huge barrier to cat ownership and may limit the loving interactions between cat lovers and cats," said immunologist Dr. Ebenezer Satyaraj, director of molecular nutrition at Purina and lead investigator on the research. "Our discovery has the potential to transform how people manage cat allergens."
Produced primarily in the salivary and sebaceous glands, Fel d1 is transferred to a cat's hair and skin during grooming and then dispersed into the environment via hair and dander (dried flakes of skin), Purina reported. A response in people sensitized to Fel d1 occurs when they come into contact with the allergen and then it binds with specialized immune defense proteins in their body.
In the new research, which spanned more than a decade, Purina scientists found that an anti-Fel d1 antibody -- immunoglobulin Y (IgY) -- can block specific sites on Fel d1 produced in cats' saliva, thereby neutralizing the allergen, the announcement said.
According to a landmark Purina study published in Immunity, Inflammation & Disease, when cats were fed a diet including this egg product with IgY, 97% showed decreased levels of active Fel d1 on the hair and dander. On average, there was a 47% reduction of active Fel d1 on cats' hair after three weeks of being on the diet.
Decreasing active Fel d1 on a cat's hair can reduce cat allergens shed into the environment on hair and dander, Purina said, and reducing the allergen load in the environment has been shown to be beneficial to allergen-sensitive people.
This was validated in a recent environmentally controlled study conducted by researchers at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo.
"At Purina, we imagine a world where nutritional innovation can be life changing," said Dan Smith, Purina vice president, research and development. "We believe pets and people are better together. This breakthrough finding has the potential to improve the lives of cats and the people who love them."
For more information about this research and the Purina Institute, visit www.purinainstitute.com.