Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Allergies Health Center

Font Size

Scientists Closer to Cat Allergy Cure

By Peter Russell
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Rob Hicks, MD

July 26, 2013 -- Scientists say they're hopeful that a research breakthrough will lead to a cure for people who are allergic to cats.

Researchers at the University of Cambridge say they've figured out how a particular protein in cat dander triggers an allergic response in humans.

Many people are allergic to cats, dogs, and other animals. Typical symptoms include sneezing, itchiness, and a stuffed or runny nose.

Allergic reactions happen when the immune system overreacts to a perceived danger. Normally, the immune system identifies and responds to harmful viruses and bacteria. But with an allergy, the immune system wrongly identifies an allergen as dangerous, such as pet dander, and starts an immune response.

The most common cause of severe allergic reactions to cats is a protein called Fel d 1, which is found in microscopic pieces of animal skin (often accompanied by dried saliva) from grooming.

The Cambridge team discovered how this protein can trigger an inflammatory response when in the presence of a common bacterial toxin found in the environment called lipopolysaccharide, or LPS.

"How cat dander causes such a severe allergic reaction in some people has long been a mystery," said Clare Bryant, who led the research at the University of Cambridge’s Department of Veterinary Medicine. "Not only did we find out that LPS [intensifies] the immune response’s reaction to cat dander, we identified the part of immune system that recognizes it, the receptor TLR4."

The scientists then used medication that curbs the TLR4 response and found it blocks the effects of the cat dander protein on human cells, thereby preventing an inflammatory response.

Bryant says she's hopeful that the research will lead to new treatments for people with cat allergies, and possibly those with dog allergies.

The study is published in The Journal of Immunology.

'Big Step Forward'

Maureen Jenkins, director of clinical services at Allergy UK, describes the findings as "a big step forward in understanding how cat allergen causes such severe allergic reactions."

"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," she says in an e-mail. "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."

The new findings 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," she says.

Today on WebMD

man blowing nose
Make these tweaks to your diet, home, and lifestyle.
Allergy capsule
Breathe easier with these products.
cat on couch
Live in harmony with your cat or dog.
Woman sneezing with tissue in meadow
Which ones affect you?

blowing nose
woman with sore throat
lone star tick
Woman blowing nose

Send yourself a link to download the app.

Loading ...

Please wait...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.


Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

cat lying on shelf
Allergy prick test
Man sneezing into tissue
Woman holding feather duster up to face, twitching