Researchers have taken the first step towards developing a vaccine against dog allergies after identifying the molecules that caused immune reactions in people.

Scientists at Osaka Prefecture University have identified seven different dog allergens – molecules or molecular structures that bind to an antibody and produce an unusually strong immune response that would normally be harmless.

“These seven are named Canis familiaris allergens 1 to 7 (Can f 1-7). But while there are seven, just one, Can f 1, is responsible for the majority (50-75 percent) of reactions in people allergic to dogs. It is found in dogs’ tongue tissue, salivary glands, and their skin.”

Researchers have not yet identified Can f 1’s IgE epitopes, which are the parts of the antigens that stimulate an immune response.

Takashi Inui, lead author of the study and professor at Osaka Prefecture University, said they would like to be able to present small doses of these epitopes to the immune system to train it to deal with them, similar to the principle behind any vaccine.

Using epitopes to produce a ‘hypoallergenic vaccine’ would not only be a world-first for dog allergies but is very rare with respect to any allergic reaction.

If the principles behind the work prove to be successful, they could be used in a much wider sense to combat against various other allergies.