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An asthma vaccine could soon ease severe cases

Allergic asthma affects 340 million people worldwide. For severe forms, there is treatment, but it is very restrictive and expensive. A French research team is developing a potential vaccine. Their latest findings in mice pave the way for a human clinical trial.

Asthma is a very common chronic respiratory disease. In France, it affects 4 million people. Allergic asthma is a special type of asthma and accounts for half of this lung disease. Inhalation of allergens, most often dust mites, causes inflammation of the bronchial tubes and difficulty breathing. This is mediated by the excessive production of IgE-type antibodies and proteins called interleukins (IL-4 and IL-13 in particular) in the airways.

The standard treatment for asthma is inhaled corticosteroids, but they are not always successful in controlling severe forms. In this case, it is necessary to resort to anti-IgE or anti-IL-4 / IL-13 monoclonal antibodies. Although effective, antibodies have two major drawbacks. On the one hand, it is very expensive, and on the other hand, it can only be administered in the form of an injection: painful and restrictive for the patient being treated for life. A French team is developing a vaccine against allergic asthma. Published in the journal sensitiveHowever, the results of their recent work are somewhat promising.

What is the goal of the vaccine?

The goal of the vaccine candidate is to stimulate the production of anti-IL-4 and anti-IL-13 antibodies. It consists of a transporter protein coupled to the cytokines IL-4 and IL-13. When the immune system detects the vaccine, it begins to produce anti-IL-4 and anti-IL-13 antibodies in large quantities.

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After conclusive preliminary tests in a normal mouse, the authors conducted the new work in humanized mice. In these animals, the genes encoding the murine cytokines IL-4 and IL-13 were replaced by human genes. The candidate vaccine has been shown to be able to stimulate the production of antibodies directed against murine and human IL-4 and IL-13.

What are the effects of the vaccine?

By allowing the production of IL-4 and IL-13 neutralizing antibodies, the candidate vaccine reduces symptoms of asthma in mice: reduced mucus production and increased respiratory activity.

IL-4 and IL-13 are cytokines involved in several diseases including atopic dermatitis and food allergy. Therefore, the potential applications for this vaccine candidate are very numerous.

The next step will be human clinical trials. Even if many steps are still necessary before potential commercialization, these results bring a glimmer of hope for all people with allergic asthma.