Purpose of review: The objective is to discuss recent progress in our understanding of the role of the indoor environment in asthma, focusing on the special role of cat allergens.
Recent findings: Sensitization to Fel d 1 is the dominant event in inhalant responses to cat; however, there are also IgE responses to the lipocalin (Fel d 4), to cat albumin (Fel d 2), and to the oligosaccharide galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose (alpha-gal) on cat IgA (Fel d 5w) and other molecules. The dose response and routes of sensitization for these allergens are now thought to be diverse. It is important to remember that exposure outside a house with a cat is sufficient to cause sensitization. Furthermore, the only solid evidence about a role in asthma relates to Fel d 1. Recently, it has been shown that tolerance associated with early exposure to cats can persist to age 18 and that IgE to alpha-gal (on cat IgA) is not related to asthma. In addition, a recent study of anti-IgE reinforces the evidence that IgE antibodies to indoor allergens make a major contribution to asthma severity.
Summary: Exposure to Fel d 1 in a home with a cat is far higher than the levels necessary to induce an allergic (IgE antibody) response. In keeping with that, children may develop tolerance, which can be long-lived. In addition, there is increasing evidence that IgE antibodies to an inhalant allergen, such as Fel d 1, dust mite, or cockroach, are causally related to lung inflammation and asthma.