BioWorld International Correspondent

SYDNEY, Australia Two researchers at the University of Melbourne said they developed a new treatment that would avoid the side effects of the present treatment for a common form of hay fever.

Husband and wife team Prem Bhalla and Mohan Singh said they identified the treatment by initially isolating the gene Lol p 5, which encodes the protein in rye grass that makes rye grass one of the most potent environmental allergens.

By systematically mutating the gene and then testing the resulting protein, the researchers were able to identify a protein that could produce a strong immunological response in those affected by hay fever.

At present, hay fever sufferers are treated by injections of an extract of the material they are allergic to, in order to boost their immune system. The injections contain plenty of other material beside the actual allergen and can have unpleasant side effects.

Bhalla said that because the protein will be injected in purified form it would greatly reduce the risk of side effects.

The treatment has been extensively tested for safety and efficacy through skin-prick tests on patients, but there have been no clinical trials.

Bhalla said that the licensing rights to Lol p 5 have been sold and are held by a U.S. company, Heska Corp., of Fort Collins, Colo., but the university still holds the rights to the development of the treatment.