Dust mites live in almost every home. With many allergic to the microscopic bugs, news of a vaccination has the potential to help millions. Researchers at the University of Iowa published their findings in the journal American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists, which announced the efficacy of a vaccine that can significantly decrease common dust mite allergies.

“What is new about this is we have developed a vaccine against dust-mite allergens that hasn’t been used before," the study’s co-author Aliasger Salem, and professor in pharmaceutical sciences at the UI, said in a press release.

Dust mites live in 84 percent of households in the United States by burrowing themselves into couch cushions, mattresses, blankets, and other material-based places that hold skin cells. Why? They love living in cozy places because dust mites feed off of the skin cells that shed from our bodies. Forty-five percent of people who have allergies are also allergic to dust mites, which mean any way their allergies can be alleviated would help ease their breathing.

“Our research explores a novel approach to treating mite allergy in which specially-encapsulated miniscule particles are administered with sequences of bacterial DNA that direct the immune system to suppress allergic immune responses," said Peter Thorne, public health professor at the UI and a contributing author on the paper. "This work suggests a way forward to alleviate mite-induced asthma in allergy sufferers.”

Dust mites trigger a slew of allergic reaction, including itchy eyes, runny nose, sneezing, and even breaking out in hives. Allergies are the immune system’s abnormal reaction to certain foods, dust, plant pollen, or medications. In an attempt to protect the body from the mistaken harmful allergen, the immune system produces IgE antibodies to attack. The antibodies release chemicals into the bloodstream, including histamines, which cause reactions throughout a person’s eyes, nose, throat, lungs, skin, or gastrointestinal tract.

The vaccination the UI researchers created takes advantage of the body’s reaction to foreign substances by using a booster called CpG, which has also proved to be a successful cancer vaccination. CpG increases the potency of their vaccine, which also triggers the body’s immune system much like an allergen would and antibodies are released into the system. The immune system absorbs the CpG antigen packaged with the vaccine 90 percent of the time and has been shown to greatly decrease the body’s inflammatory response in mice.

“This is exactly what we were hoping for,” Salem said.

Source: Salem A. University of Iowa. American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists. 2014.