The Charity Allergy UK have said the research into cat allergies could be a "big step forward" in understanding allergic reactions, even suggesting the findings could lead to treatments for dog allergies.
Scientists at the University of Cambridge have discovered that a common cause of reactions is found in cat allergen.
Allergy UK's Director of Clinical Services Maureen Jenkins said:
This new information identifying the specific receptor interaction in the immune system could pave the way for treatments for those with persistent disease triggered by cat allergen and, in the future, potentially dog and house dust mite allergen.
Scientists have discovered how allergic reactions to cats are sparked, leading to new hopes of a preventative treatment.
Scientists at the University of Cambridge discovered that the common cause of reactions is found in cat allergen, which triggers a large immune response in sufferers including coughing, wheezing and sneezing.
Lead author of the research Dr Clare Bryant said she hoped the research would "lead to new and improved treatments for cat and possibly dog allergy sufferers."
When a person with asthma comes into contact with something that irritates their airways, the muscles around the walls of the airways tighten so that the airways become narrower and the lining of the airways becomes inflamed and starts to swell.
Sometimes, sticky mucus or phlegm builds up, which can further narrow the airways.
These reactions cause the airways to become narrower and irritated - making it difficult to breath and leading to symptoms of asthma.
This study is exciting because it opens up interesting new avenues of research that could tell us more about the relative role of genes, environment and gender in terms of asthma risk, and enable us use this information to potentially prevent asthma in the future.
– Leanne Metcalf, assistant director of research and practice at Asthma UK
With these groundbreaking findings, we should see a change in the way we assess a child's risk of disease, asking girls for the allergy history of their mother and boys for that of their father.
This work also opens up novel areas for further research in the genetics of allergy as to why this sex dependent effect occurs and, if we can find the reason, we can try to find a way of preventing sex-specific disease.
– Professor Hasan Arshad, Southampton General Hospital