New jab offers hope of curing hayfever
A vaccine against hay fever could be ready within three years after human trials showed a major reduction in symptoms.
Scientists from the Medical University of Vienna said results were so encouraging that they 'dared' to hope that sufferers would be cured of the condition after several years of booster jabs.
Up to a million people in Ireland suffer from hay fever, with symptoms ranging from sneezing, an itchy throat and running eyes, to wheezing and severe shortness of breath when exacerbated by asthma.
The new phase-II trial showed the vaccine for grass pollen reduced symptoms by at least 25pc over two years, and researchers said unpublished results also showed reductions of up to 60pc in some people.
Dr Rudolf Valenta, who led the vaccine development, said: "In the last study, still unpublished, we reach up to 60pc for certain patients after one year of treatment.
"It is likely that we can make them symptom-free after longer treatment. The planned schedule is five pre-seasonal injections before the pollen season of the first year and one daily refreshment every year."
The team is also confident that the vaccine could be tweaked to fight against dust mite allergy, birch pollen, ragweed, and even help people who are allergic to cats.
Asked whether the vaccine could be considered a cure, Dr Valenta added: "I dare to say that. More important, our next step will be preventive vaccination."
The vaccine, which is the first in the world to target grass pollen, is made from peptides - strings of amino acids - from the pollen.
They are modified so they no longer bind to antibodies which trigger a reaction. It allows the body to learn that pollen is safe and does not require a fierce immune response.
The new trial involved 180 patients who suffered from grass pollen allergy, and who were regularly troubled by a runny nose, cough and breathing problems.
Two-thirds were given different levels of the vaccine, while one third acted as a placebo group.
The patients were given four injections in the first year and a booster jab in the second year.