Dr. Thomas E. Van Metre Jr., whose medical research made life easier for people with allergies, especially allergies to cats, died Oct. 8 in his home in Ruxton, Md., near Baltimore. He was 73 years old.

The cause was lymphoma, said his wife, Adela.

Dr. Van Metre, an allergist, also helped change the way doctors treated asthmatics when he observed that the doses of steroids used to help asthmatic children were inhibiting their growth and that excessive use of a bronchodilator, isoproterenol, could be harmful.

In 1954, Dr. Van Metre went into private practice as an allergist in Baltimore and took a part-time appointment at Johns Hopkins Hospital. In 1966, he became the doctor in charge of the allergy clinic, a position he held until 1984. He became a full professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 1994.

In the mid-1980s, Dr. Van Metre started looking for ways to help people allergic to cats. ''Before his work,'' said Dr. Philip S. Norman, a professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins and the former head of the division of clinical immunology there, ''it was considered not very useful to give allergy shots for cat allergy. He showed that immunotherapy does work.''

While allergy shots cannot reduce a patient's sensitivity so much that an allergic person could live comfortably with a cat, they can give greater freedom of movement.

''It's good for casual contact,'' Norman said. ''Otherwise, people have to alter where they go and leave houses on short notice or refuse to visit because there's a cat in the household.''

Dr. Van Metre also worked on ways to improve the treatment of ragweed allergy.

Dr. Van Metre was born Jan. 11, 1923, in Newport, R.I. He graduated from Harvard University in 1943 and from its medical school in 1946. Except for three years in the Army Medical Corps, from 1948 to 1951, and a year at St. Louis University Medical School, he spent his entire career in Baltimore and Johns Hopkins, retiring earlier this year.

From: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, PA, October 17, 1996


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