SAN ANTONIO -

With an estimated 78 million cats in the United States and an estimated quarter of all Americans allergic to them, the math tells the story.

One in four Americans suffer from an allergic reaction to one of the most commonly found animals in the country.

San Antonio-based Sylvana Research is looking for those stricken, in the hopes that their new Catalyst Study will solve their dilemma. They are seeking people ages 12 through 65 years old, who live with cats and have been diagnosed with cat allergy for at least two years.

Over a period of four months, they will be paid to receive four injections of “Cat SPIRE," which stands for Synthetic Peptide Immuno Regulatory Epitope.

“It's a tremendous advantage for people to be able to take an injection four times -- (each) a month apart -- and get some relief (for) two years or hopefully even longer," said Dr. Paul Ratner, a local allergist conducting the study.

He said relief from allergies seems to be almost immediate and the study will reveal the long-term effects.

He also said test subjects have been slow coming because most people who are allergic to cats yet choose to keep them in their lives are very attached.

“The problem is that if you have a cat, you know they become a part of the family and you don't want to give it up so people suffer. The cat is everywhere. If you're like my cats, they sleep in our beds, and the cat allergen is everywhere in the house," said Ratner.

It's not the cat hair that people are allergic to, he said. It's the shed skin cells of the cat that cause the reaction to those who have a genetic predisposition. He recommends an allergy test to anyone looking to adopt a cat because once they are in the home, it’s too late.

The Humane Society also requires a test, but a more casual one. Before a cat can be adopted, the potential owner must spend 20 minutes with the animal to determine if there will be a reaction.

The study’s injections may eliminate the need for such measures if the Food and Drug Administration approves SPIRE. Other versions are being developed using the same technology for dust mites and pollens.

"After the first injection, they are actually showing some relief, so it works pretty quickly as opposed to the conventional allergy shots, in which you might have to take for five years and come into an office every week or two weeks. This is a tremendous alternative to that," said Ratner.

For more information on the Catalyst Study, visit www.thecatallergystudy.com, or call 1-844-CAT-STUDY.

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