Allergen-specific immunotherapy provides immediate, long-term and preventive clinical effects in children and adults: the effects of immunotherapy can be categorised by level of benefit -the centenary of allergen specific subcutaneous immunotherapy

Clin Transl Allergy. 2012 Apr 13;2:8. doi: 10.1186/2045-7022-2-8.

Abstract

Allergen Specific Immunotherapy (SIT) for respiratory allergic diseases is able to significantly improve symptoms as well as reduce the need for symptomatic medication, but SIT also has the capacity for long-term clinical effects and plays a protective role against the development of further allergies and symptoms. The treatment acts on basic immunological mechanisms, and has the potential to change the pathological allergic immune response. In this paper we discuss some of the most important achievements in the documentation of the benefits of immunotherapy, over the last 2 decades, which have marked a period of extensive research on the clinical effects and immunological background of the mechanisms involved. The outcome of immunotherapy is described as different levels of benefit from early reduction in symptoms over progressive clinical effects during treatment to long-term effects after discontinuation of the treatment and prevention of asthma. The efficacy of SIT increases the longer it is continued and immunological changes lead to potential long-term benefits. SIT alone and not the symptomatic treatment nor other avoidance measures has so far been documented as the therapy with long-term or preventive potential. The allergic condition is driven by a subset of T-helper lymphocytes (Th2), which are characterised by the production of cytokines like IL-4, and IL-5. Immunological changes following SIT lead to potential curative effects. One mechanism whereby immunotherapy suppresses the allergic response is through increased production of IgG4 antibodies. Induction of specific IgG4 is able to influence the allergic response in different ways and is related to immunological effector mechanisms, also responsible for the reduced late phase hyperreactivity and ongoing allergic inflammation. SIT is the only treatment which interferes with the basic pathophysiological mechanisms of the allergic disease, thereby creating the potential for changes in the long-term prognosis of respiratory allergy. SIT should not only be recognised as first-line therapeutic treatment for allergic rhinoconjunctivitis but also as secondary preventive treatment for respiratory allergic diseases.