Scientists have discovered how cat allergies work inside the body, and could be one step closer to finding a cure.
A research team from Cambridge University discovered how cat-related allergens are detected by the immune system, which could lead to the development of new treatments, the BBC reported.
Researchers said this is "a big step forward" in the understanding of cat allergies.
The team examined proteins from cat dander, which is the most common culprit when it comes to cat allergies.
They were able to pinpoint the pathway of the body activated by the allergen when in the presence of a bacterial toxin.
The most common symptoms of this reaction (cat allergies) are: "coughing, wheezing, sneezing and a runny nose."
"We've discovered how the cat allergy proteins activate the host immune cells," Dr. Clare Bryant of the University of Cambridge, who participated in the study, said.
"By understanding the triggering mechanism, there are now drugs that have been designed that are in clinical trials for other conditions, such as sepsis, that could potentially then be used in a different way to treat cat allergy and to prevent cat allergy," she said.
It is estimated about 10 percent of the population is allergic to animals, 20 to 30 percent of asthma sufferers experience symptoms caused by pet dander, ACAAI reported.
"Cat allergen is particularly difficult to avoid as it is a 'sticky' molecule that is carried into every building on people's shoes and clothes," director of clinical services Maureen Jenkins, said, according to the BBC. "It can also still be found in a home, on the walls and ceiling or fittings, even a few years after a cat has ceased to live there."
Allergic reactions occur when the immune system "overreacts to a perceived danger." It mistakes allergens, such as pet dander, for dangerous bacteria and triggers an immune system response.
"This new information identifying the specific receptor interaction in the immune system could pave the way for treatments for those with persistent disease triggered by cat allergen and, in the future, potentially dog and house dust mite allergen," Jenkins said.
The researchers suggested a new inhaler could be on the market within five years that will allow people with allergies to interact with their furry friends consequence-free, the Daily Mail reported.
"As drugs have already been developed to inhibit the receptor, we are hopeful that our research will lead to new treatments for cat and possibly dog allergy sufferers. With just a puff of an inhaler which contains the drug, a person would be okay to interact with cats without an adverse reaction," Bryant said.