If you’re one of the 20 million Americans with an allergy to house dust mites, then you probably know that relief can sometimes be found with allergy shots, also known as immunotherapy. But signing up for years of weekly needles isn’t for everyone. So many of us continue to simply treat the symptoms – the congestion, the sneezing, the itchy eyes and even asthma flare-ups.
But a new study could change that. Researchers at Monash University in Australia are working on a dust-mite vaccine that, if successful, would have the potential to cure sufferers in just two to three doses. Professor Els Meeusen is applying her experience in infectious disease vaccines to the world of allergy. She believes the addition of a new ingredient into the vaccine could be the magic bullet allergy sufferers have been waiting for.
Allergic Living’s Kim Shiffman spoke with Els Meeusen to find out what that ingredient is, and when the vaccine might be available.
Why focus on immunotherapy as a treatment for dust mite allergy?
It’s the only treatment that could be a cure. All the others are just to keep allergic symptoms under control, but they don’t cure anything.
How would your vaccine be different than the one that’s been available for years?
The current house dust mite allergy vaccine is given at continuously increasing doses over a period of years. You have to be very careful giving it – it can be a little bit dangerous to use because it’s not well known how it works, and if you don’t use it properly, it could cause a serious reaction. It’s also not quite clear if or when it’s going to start working, and there are no clear markers to actually assess if it’s working.
What our work will do is try to speed up the vaccine effect, a bit like in the work I do with infectious diseases, where you only have to give two or three injections before you get good immunity. If we can achieve the same immune deviation – changing the immune system by vaccination using the same principles as infectious diseases – then we may be able to have a more effective and quicker vaccination regime for house dust mite allergy.
Next Page: More questions on the vaccine