Background: Sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) has proven efficacy in treating respiratory allergy.
Objective: To compare the clinical and functional effects and the effect on nasal eosinophils of SLIT with either single or combination allergens.
Methods: We performed an open-labeled, controlled, 4 parallel-group randomized study with 58 patients sensitized to birch and grasses only who had rhinitis and bronchial hyperreactivity in both pollen seasons. Patients were recruited for the study from January 1, 1999, to June 30, 2001. The patients received SLIT for birch, SLIT for grass, SLIT for birch and grass, or drugs only. Symptom and medication scores, forced expiratory volume in 1 second, bronchial hyperreactivity, and nasal eosinophil counts were evaluated in both pollen seasons at baseline and after 2 and 4 years.
Results: Ten patients dropped out and 48 completed the study. No change in all the considered parameters vs baseline was seen in patients treated with drugs only. Those patients receiving SLIT for grass or birch had a significant clinical improvement and nasal eosinophil reduction vs baseline and vs patients who did not receive SLIT in the target season (P < .01) but also in the unrelated pollen season (P < .05). The patients receiving SLIT for grass and birch improved as well, and their improvement in clinical symptoms and inflammation was significantly greater than in patients treated with SLIT for the single allergens. Minor changes were seen in the forced expiratory volume in 1 second, since it remained within the reference range in the whole population.
Conclusion: In patients sensitized to grass and birch, SLIT with the 2 allergens provided the best clinical results. Nevertheless, SLIT with birch only or grass only also provided a measurable improvement in the grass season and birch season, respectively.