February 10, 2020
Given how common cat allergies are (in some estimates one in four people) they are not especially well understood. However, a new discovery in an unexpected animal may help shed light on why exactly many of us find it impossible to be close to kittens.
Researchers from the University of Queensland have been investigating the world’s only venomous primate, the slow loris. These adorable creatures, native to South and Southeast Asia, protect their young from predation by mixing their saliva and secretions from the underarm to create a venom they then ‘comb’ through the hair of their young using their teeth. They also use this venom when fighting with competitors, and the compounds in the venom are known to slow down the rate of wound healing. When humans are bitten by a loris they react as if having an allergic reaction, experiencing symptoms such as pain, difficulty breathing and perhaps even anaphylaxis.
Many of the compounds in the loris’ venom were already known to science, however, the researchers have now genetically sequenced a number of previously unknown proteins. Once sequenced they team discovered that these proteins were virtually genetically identical to the allergenic proteins cats produce and coat themselves with that many of us are allergic to. This discovery may suggest that the proteins created by cats may also have evolved as a predator defense mechanism, although more research will be required to confirm this hypothesis.
Source: Science Alert
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