To accompany ‘An asthma treatment may also help tame cat allergies’
- Besides cats, what is another animal or substance to which people may be allergic? What are some symptoms that you associate with someone having an allergy? Some infectious diseases share some of the symptoms you described. Come up with one example. Finally, what do you think is the difference between an allergy and an infectious disease?
- For some diseases, getting infected once means you rarely get infected a second time. Or if you do get sick again, you recover much faster. Chickenpox is an example. Why do you think your body would be better able to fight off a virus or bacteria the second time than the first time?
- What are the “irritating symptoms” caused by allergies? What do allergy shots contain that helps to reduce these symptoms in people?
- How long after receiving standard allergy shots do the benefits begin to disappear?
- Antibodies are a part of which system of the body? What is the name of the lab-made antibody used by Lisa Wheatley and her team? What human ailment has this antibody been used to treat in the past?
- How many participants took part in Wheatley’s allergic response study?
- What did the “combination treatment” shots contain? Did the combo work better or worse than standard shots?
- Explain how immune cells of people who received the combination therapy differed from other test groups.
- What is the name of the “sticky antigen” that triggers cat allergies in people? Why will this new therapy probably not work so well with cockroach allergies?
- The immune system’s role is to help the body identify and fight off disease-causing particles such as bacteria and viruses. Imagine someone developing a bacterial infection, such as strep throat. Their immune system must be able to identify the bacteria and recognize those bacteria as harmful. What problem might arise if an individual’s immune system is not sensitive enough to detect harmful bacteria? Now consider the opposite. What problem might occur if a healthy person’s immune system is overly sensitive and mistakes harmless substances as harmful? Which of these scenarios resembles the allergic reactions described in this story?
- What are some dangers mentioned in this story that are caused by too much inflammation? Despite those potential problems, the inflammatory process does play an important role in health. For example, some drugs that reduce inflammation (such as corticosteroids) come with a warning that using this drug may slow wound healing. Why do you think inflammation-reducing drugs sometimes have these side effects? In what situation might inflammation help to protect or heal the body?
- Tree pollen is known to trigger allergies in some people. To what extent could the findings from this study help develop a treatment for pollen allergies? With that in mind, would developing a new treatment for pollen allergies be harder or easier than the cat allergy treatment? (Hint: The story explains that cat allergies develop from only one “sticky antigen.” Keep in mind that different types of trees produce different pollen.) Briefly explain your answer.