From mugwort allergy to an effective vaccine?

June 22, 2022 - 2 minutes

A research team at MedUni Vienna in Austria says it has discovered key mechanisms of allergy to pollen from the common weed mugwort, which could lay the foundation for the development of the world’s first vaccine. 

Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) poses a serious problem for some people with allergies in places where the plant is common from July through to September. 

Currently, the symptoms, which can lead to asthma, can only be treated symptomatically. The recent findings are a first step toward causal therapy and prevention of mugwort pollen allergy. 

The study was published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

In preclinical research, the scientists started at the point of origin of mugwort pollen allergy.

They discovered where and how the immunoglobulin E (IgE) type antibodies detect the major mugwort pollen allergen and trigger the exaggerated immune response. They also found distinct protein building blocks of the main mugwort pollen allergen are in such a configuration that they can be blocked by IgG (immunoglobulin G) antibodies.

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Vaccine development

The research team was led by Maja Zabel and Winfried Pickl, in collaboration with Rudolf Valenta’s research team from MedUni Vienna’s Center for Pathophysiology, Infectiology and Immunology.

The scientists said the discovery creates the basis for the development of a vaccine against mugwort allergy.

“Our study shows how fragments of the major mugwort pollen allergen can be used for effective and safe therapy,” Pickl said. 

“Our observations of the mode of action of the vaccine show that one of the ends of the main mugwort pollen allergen provides important docking sites for the pathogenic IgE antibodies of allergic individuals, which can be used for creating a novel vaccine.”

Valenta said the next step is to develop a vaccine that can be evaluated in a clinical trial.

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