Asthma and allergies are both caused by the body’s immune system overacting to a relatively harmless trigger. In order to lessen this overreaction, a new breathable medication called quilizumab is being developed that interrupts the production of immunoglobulin type E (IgE)-- the protein that triggers allergic reactions.
IgE works by binding to allergens when one’s body is first exposed to them. Then when the body is re-exposed to the same allergen, the IgE proteins will trigger inflammation. This causes an allergic reaction or asthma attack.
Targeting IgE is not a completely new strategy. The injectable medication omalizumab already does that. But because the new medication can be inhaled through one’s inhaler or nebulizer instead of being injected, it’s much more convenient for patients. Plus, whereas omalizumab targets IgE after it’s been produced, the new quilizumab does that and blocks production of new IgE proteins. It also lasts longer, meaning patients could potentially switch from one to three injections every couple weeks to one inhaled does every three months.
Quilizumab has been tested on a group of 29 asthma patients and a group of 36 allergy patients. In both groups, it successfully lowered IgE levels and kept them lowered for six months after the treatment. But not everyone’s convinced that quilizumab will be able to replace old medications like omalizumab. According to allergist Dr. Myron Zitt, quilizumab will first have to prove effective in treating people with moderate to severe asthma, compared to a placebo.
Currently, scientists are conducting a full clinical trial of quilizumab and hope to have positive results next year.