Allergens are not pathogens: why immunization against allergy differs from vaccination against infectious diseases

Hum Vaccin Immunother. 2014;10(3):703-7. doi: 10.4161/hv.27183. Epub 2013 Nov 26.


Vaccination against infectious diseases has been one of the major breakthroughs in human medical history, saving the lives of millions of people each year. More recently, prophylactic vaccination against non-infectious diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, and type I allergy is being investigated. Particularly in case of IgE-driven allergic disorders, which afflict almost a quarter of the population in highly developed countries, preventative measures would represent a major improvement for patients' health as well as an economic relief for public health services. As an alternative to allergen-specific immunotherapy, prophylactic vaccination against type I allergic diseases could slow down or even stop the progress of the allergy pandemic. Allergen-encoding gene-based vaccines, i.e., plasmid DNA and mRNA vaccines, provide the advantage of purity over crude allergen extracts, which involve the risk of de novo sensitizations. Furthermore, these formulations have been demonstrated to induce T helper 1 as well as T regulatory immune responses--a pre-requisite for prophylactic intervention against allergies. However, prophylactic vaccines against environmental allergens strikingly differ from conventional vaccines against infectious diseases or therapeutic approaches concerning the underlying immunological mechanisms.

Keywords: DNA vaccine; allergy vaccines; hygiene hypothesis; infectious diseases; mRNA vaccine; natural immunity; prevention; prophylactic; safety; type I allergy.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Allergens / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / immunology
  • Hypersensitivity / prevention & control*
  • Vaccination / methods*
  • Vaccines, DNA / administration & dosage*
  • Vaccines, DNA / immunology*


  • Allergens
  • Vaccines, DNA