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Asthma Health Outcomes Project

Overviews of Surveyed Asthma ProgramsSeptember 2005

International Programs: United Kingdom (cont’d)Back to Index

The effect of high-efficiency and standard vacuum-cleaners on mite, cat, and dog allergen levels and clinical progress

University of Southampton

Southampton S016 United Kingdom 6YD

Dr. Jill Warner


The major triggers for allergic asthma are exposure to allergens of the house dust mite, Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus, and of pets. Unfortunately studies of techniques designed to reduce house dust mite and pet allergens have had mixed results. However, new so-called 'improved' products continue to appear on the market and require subjective evaluation. A randomized controlled trial was done to study the effect of high-efficiency and standard vacuum-cleaners on mite, cat and dog allergen levels and clinical progress.

The homes of 60 house dust mite-allergic patients were studied. Der p 1 (house dust mite), Fel d 1 (cat) and Can f 1 (dog) allergens were measured in four separate locations in each home. Clinical analysis was by lung function, bronchodilator usage and histamine challenge techniques.

There was a significant reduction in Fel d 1 (ng/m2) in dust samples from the living-room carpet (p = 0.046), bedroom carpet (p = 0.003) and mattress (p = 0.013) and living-room sofa (p = 0.005) after 12 months of using the high-efficiency cleaners, but only in the mattress sample using the standard cleaners (p = 0.014). Can f 1 (ng/g dust) was reduced in the mattress sample after using the high-efficiency vacuum-cleaners (p = 0.028), but not at other sites. Der p 1 levels were not significantly changed over this period. Clinically, patients in the high-efficiency group showed improvements in peak expiratory flow rate (PEFR) (p = 0.004), FEV1 (p = 0.026) and bronchodilator usage (p = 0.005) after 12 months. When the cat-sensitive patients were analyzed separately, improvements in histamine PC20 (p = 0.039) were also seen.

The authors concluded that reducing Fel d 1 concentrations, in the absence of any change in Der p 1 concentrations, can produce significant improvements in the lung function of atopic, asthmatic patients. This effect was primarily achieved in those patients with cat sensitivity, but who did not possess a cat themselves.

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