Researchers create vaccine for dust-mite allergies

July 22, 2014 by Richard C. Lewis
Dust mites are tiny and ubiquitous, but they cause big allergic reactions for many people. University of Iowa researchers have created a vaccine that may provide relief to dust-mite allergies. Credit: Austin Smoldt-Sáenz, University of Iowa

If you're allergic to dust mites (and chances are you are), help may be on the way.

Researchers at the University of Iowa have developed a that can combat dust-mite allergies by naturally switching the body's . In animal tests, the nano-sized vaccine package lowered lung inflammation by 83 percent despite repeated exposure to the allergens, according to the paper, published in the AAPS (American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists) Journal. One big reason why it works, the researchers contend, is because the vaccine package contains a booster that alters the body's inflammatory response to dust-mite allergens.

"What is new about this is we have developed a vaccine against dust-mite allergens that hasn't been used before," says Aliasger Salem, professor in pharmaceutical sciences at the UI and a corresponding author on the paper.

Dust mites are ubiquitous, microscopic buggers who burrow in mattresses, sofas, and other homey spots. They are found in 84 percent of households in the United States, according to a published, national survey. Preying on skin cells on the body, the mites trigger allergies and breathing difficulties among 45 percent of those who suffer from asthma, according to some studies. Prolonged exposure can cause lung damage.

Treatment is limited to getting temporary relief from inhalers or undergoing regular exposure to build up tolerance, which is long term and holds no guarantee of success.

"Our research explores a novel approach to treating mite allergy in which specially-encapsulated miniscule particles are administered with sequences of bacterial DNA that direct the immune system to suppress allergic immune responses," says Peter Thorne, professor at the UI and a contributing author on the paper. "This work suggests a way forward to alleviate mite-induced asthma in allergy sufferers."

The UI-developed vaccine takes advantage of the body's natural inclination to defend itself against foreign bodies. A key to the formula lies in the use of an adjuvant—which boosts the potency of the vaccine—called CpG. The booster has been used successfully in cancer vaccines but never had been tested as a vaccine for dust-mite allergies. Put broadly, CpG sets off a fire alarm within the body, springing into action. Those immune cells absorb the CpG and dispose of it.

This is important, because as the immune cells absorb CpG, they're also taking in the vaccine, which has been added to the package, much like your mother may have wrapped a bitter pill around something tasty to get you to swallow it. In another twist, combining the antigen (the vaccine) and CpG causes the body to change its immune response, producing antibodies that dampen the damaging health effects dust-mite allergens generally cause.

In lab tests, the CpG-antigen package, at 300 nanometers in size, was absorbed 90 percent of the time by immune cells, the UI-led team reports. The researchers followed up those experiments by giving the package to mice and exposing the animals to dust-mite allergens every other day for nine days total. In analyses conducted at the UI College of Public Health, packages with CpG yielded greater production of the desirable antibodies, while was lower than particles that did not contain CpG, the researchers report.

"This is exactly what we were hoping for," says Salem, whose primary appointment is in the College of Pharmacy.

The researchers will continue to test the vaccine in the hope that it can eventually be used to treat patients.

Explore further: Asthmatic risk from pets' soft toys

Related Stories

Asthmatic risk from pets' soft toys

December 9, 2013
Children's soft toys can harbour high levels of cat and dog allergens as well as house dust mite allergens, according to new research by the University of Otago, Wellington.

Common colds during pregnancy may lead to childhood asthma

February 3, 2014
Women that are pregnant may want to take extra precaution around those that are sniffling and sneezing this winter. According to a new study published today, the more common colds and viral infections a woman has during pregnancy, ...

New sublingual pill may help allergies

May 30, 2014
Allergy sufferers are breathing a sigh of relief with the news that FDA-approved medications taken via a pill or drops under the tongue over the course of weeks – as opposed to a series of injections that might last years ...

Researchers implicate house dust mites as the main cause of respiratory allergies in Singapore

February 7, 2014
In the first comprehensive adult allergy cohort study in Singapore, scientists and clinicians from A*STAR's Singapore Immunology Network (SIgN) and the National University of Singapore (NUS) have discovered that the primary ...

Recommended for you

Immune cells may be key to better allergy, infection therapies

July 28, 2017
By learning how a recently discovered immune cell works in the body, researchers hope to one day harness the cells to better treat allergies and infections, according to new Cornell research.

Team finds link between backup immune defense, mutation seen in Crohn's disease

July 27, 2017
Genes that regulate a cellular recycling system called autophagy are commonly mutated in Crohn's disease patients, though the link between biological housekeeping and inflammatory bowel disease remained a mystery. Now, researchers ...

Co-infection with two common gut pathogens worsens malnutrition in mice

July 27, 2017
Two gut pathogens commonly found in malnourished children combine to worsen malnutrition and impair growth in laboratory mice, according to new research published in PLOS Pathogens.

Study sheds light on how body may detect early signs of cancer

July 26, 2017
Fresh insights into how cells detect damage to their DNA - a hallmark of cancer - could help explain how the body keeps disease in check.

How genetically engineered viruses develop into effective vaccines

July 26, 2017
Lentiviral vectors are virus particles that can be used as a vaccine to stimulate the immune system to fight against specific pathogens. The vectors are derived from HIV, rendered non-pathogenic, and then engineered to carry ...

Accounting for human immune diversity increases clinical relevance of fundamental immunological research

July 26, 2017
Mouse models have advanced our understanding of immune function and disease in many ways but they have failed to account for the natural diversity in human immune responses. As a result, insights gained in the lab may be ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.