• asthma;
  • epitope;
  • immunological tolerance;
  • rhinitis;
  • T lymphocyte

Background:  We previously showed that overlapping Fel d 1-derived T-cell peptides inhibited surrogate markers of allergy (i.e. early and late-phase skin reactions and T-cell function) in cat allergic subjects. The present pilot study was designed to determine whether this treatment affected clinically relevant outcome measurements such as the allergen-induced nasal and bronchial reactions, and asthma/rhinitis quality of life (QOL).

Methods:  Sixteen cat-allergic asthmatic subjects who gave a dual (early and late) asthmatic response (DAR) to inhaled cat allergen were randomly assigned to receive either Fel d 1 peptides (approximately 300 μg in increasing, divided doses) or placebo (8 active : 8 placebo). Twelve single early responders (SER) were also studied in an open fashion design. Allergen-induced bronchial and nasal measurements as well as the QOL was measured at baseline, 4–8 weeks (follow-up 1 (FU1)) and 3–4 months (FU2).

Results:  In the active, but not placebo, group there were significant decreases in the late asthmatic reaction (LAR) to whole cat dander (P = 0.03) at FU2 but with no between group difference. There were also significant improvements in asthma quality of life (QOL) scores [asthma-activity limitation (P = 0.014); rhinitis-sleep (P = 0.024), non-nose/non-eye symptoms (P = 0.031), nasal problems (P = 0.015)]. In the open study Fel d 1 peptide treatment resulted in significant decreases in number of sneezes (P = 0.05), weight of nasal secretions (P = 0.04) and nasal blockage (P = 0.01) following allergen challenge.

Conclusions:  Multiple, short, overlapping Fel d 1 T-cell peptides have potential for inhibiting upper and lower airway outcome measurements in cat allergic patients. Larger, dose-ranging, studies are required before firm conclusions on clinical efficacy of peptide allergen therapy can be made.