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Allergy shock treatment hope

Wednesday July 22nd, 2009

Scientists may have found a way of limiting the danger of anaphylactic shock caused by allergic reactions.

Shock involves a sudden drop in blood pressure and difficulty breathing, and can be fatal if untreated.

It can be caused by foods such as peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, fish, shellfish, dairy products and eggs, or wasp or bee stings, latex, penicillin or other drugs or injections.

A chemical called IL-33 plays a key role, so Dr Alirio Melendez and colleagues at Glasgow University, UK, investigated further.

"We looked at a number of patients who had experienced anaphylaxis during surgery and found that they had very high levels of the molecule IL-33," Dr Melendez said. "IL-33 is a relatively new discovery and its part in anaphylaxis has not been greatly understood.

"Our study showed that IL-33 plays a pivotal role in hugely increasing the inflammation experienced during a period of anaphylactic shock. Patients with the most severe anaphylactic reactions have very high levels of IL-33 in their system. Without it, the allergic reaction experienced would be far less severe, greatly reducing the risk of death."

Dr Melendez then identified a drug to reduce levels of the chemical, which he tested on mice.

"Introducing a soluble receptor - ST2 - blocked the inflammatory response normally prompted by IL-33. This approach does not stop the allergic reaction altogether, but it is an important finding on the path to developing better treatments."

The research is published in the Proceedings of the National Association of Sciences.

Pushparaj, P. N. et al. The cytokine interleukin-33 mediates anaphylactic shock. PNAS, Vol. 106, June 16, 2009, pp. 9773-78.

Tags: A&E | Allergies & Asthma | Pharmaceuticals | UK News

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