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Dust Mite Allergy Vaccine Developed, Animal Tested

House dust mite

House dust mite (FDA.gov)

23 July 2014. Researchers at University of Iowa in Iowa City developed a vaccine, which in lab mice generates antibodies that protect against dust mite allergens. The team led by Iowa pharmacy professor Aliasger Salem published its findings in this month’s issue of AAPS Journal.

Dust mites are microscopic-sized insects, related to ticks and spiders, that eat skin cells shed by people, and thrive in dusty, warm, and humid environments around the home, such as bedding, carpets, and upholstered furniture. The tiny insects cause an allergic reaction in many people, resulting in sneezing and runny nose, and can trigger attacks in individuals with asthma. A 2003 survey found dust mite allergens in more than 8 in 10 homes in the U.S.

Salem and colleagues sought to develop a vaccine that harnesses the body’s immune system to prevent dust mite allergens from causing a reaction. The researchers designed a delivery system for antigens, the substances that induce an immune system response, using nanoscale particles of a biodegradable polymer, poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) or PLGA.

The Iowa team tested PLGA nanoparticles carrying the dust mite antigens in various sizes, as well as with and without an adjuvant, a substance that boosts the performance of a vaccine by making immune system cells more receptive. In lab cultures, the researchers found the optimum package to be a combination of antigens and an adjuvant called cytosine-phosphate-guanine or CpG in a 300 nanometer size, which were absorbed by 90 percent of immune system cells (1 nanometer equals 1 billionth of a meter).

In further tests, the team exposed lab mice to dust mite allergens every other day for nine days. During that time, mice receiving the vaccine-plus-adjuvant package created increased numbers of antibodies that fight the allergens. The tests also showed the mice receiving both vaccine and adjuvant experienced 83 percent less lung inflammation than those receiving just the vaccine.

The researchers plan to continue with lab and animal tests of the vaccine, in preparation for eventual human clinical trials.

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