Allergen-specific immunotherapy: from therapeutic vaccines to prophylactic approaches

J Intern Med. 2012 Aug;272(2):144-57. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2796.2012.02556.x.


Immunoglobulin E-mediated allergies affect more than 25% of the population. Allergen exposure induces a variety of symptoms in allergic patients, which include rhinitis, conjunctivitis, asthma, dermatitis, food allergy and life-threatening systemic anaphylaxis. At present, allergen-specific immunotherapy (SIT), which is based on the administration of the disease-causing allergens, is the only disease-modifying treatment for allergy. Current therapeutic allergy vaccines are still prepared from relatively poorly defined allergen extracts. However, with the availability of the structures of the most common allergen molecules, it has become possible to produce well-defined recombinant and synthetic allergy vaccines that allow specific targeting of the mechanisms of allergic disease. Here we provide a summary of the development and mechanisms of SIT, and then review new forms of therapeutic vaccines that are based on recombinant and synthetic molecules. Finally, we discuss possible allergen-specific strategies for prevention of allergic disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Allergens / immunology
  • Allergens / therapeutic use*
  • Asthma* / complications
  • Asthma* / drug therapy
  • Asthma* / immunology
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Desensitization, Immunologic / methods*
  • Drug Combinations
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity* / complications
  • Hypersensitivity* / drug therapy
  • Hypersensitivity* / immunology
  • Immunoglobulin E / immunology*
  • Immunomodulation*
  • Primary Prevention / methods
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Therapies, Investigational
  • Vaccines, Synthetic / therapeutic use


  • Allergens
  • Drug Combinations
  • Vaccines, Synthetic
  • Immunoglobulin E