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Allergy Vaccine Shows Promise

Fewer Allergic Side Effects to Pollen Seen in Study
By
WebMD Health News

Aug. 9, 2004 -- Allergic to pollen? There's progress in the search for solutions to the misery that affects more than 100 million people worldwide, making pollen one of the most common allergens.

Scientists report favorable findings after testing a genetically engineered vaccine that is based on material found naturally in pollen. The vaccine, which is not currently available, also had fewer side effects than allergy shots used today, which include multiple injections given over the course of months to years to help prevent allergy reactions.

The vaccine was tested on 124 adults with moderate to severe hay fever from birch pollen at three European study centers located in Vienna, Austria; Stockholm, Sweden; and Strasbourg, France. Some participants received the vaccine; others were given a placebo treatment.

Starting before pollen season, participants received either eight injections of the placebo or the experimental vaccine at one to two weekly intervals. Researchers gradually increased the vaccine's dose and then maintained it at maximum strength over four weekly intervals until the allergy season began.

Participants were screened throughout the year to see if their immune systems were responding to the vaccine. Those receiving the vaccine showed an increase in antibodies, which inhibit the allergic reaction seen in people with hay fever. Those taking the placebo treatment had no such benefit.

The results show that the vaccine may help reduce allergy symptoms in hay fever sufferers.

One day, genetically engineered vaccines could treat and perhaps even prevent such allergic reactions.

"These results could possibly lead to the development of more effective vaccines for the treatment of the most common forms of allergy and even for prophylactic vaccination," write the researchers in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

SOURCE: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Aug. 9-13, 2004.

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