Background: Allergen immunotherapy (AIT) has been in practice for more than 100 years. However, research in novel routes and delivery methods of immunotherapy to treat allergic rhinitis (AR) and conjunctivitis has only recently occurred in the United States, where the predominant form of AIT provided is largely via a subcutaneous immunotherapy (SCIT) route. AIT may prevent new sensitizations, improve symptoms, decrease medication usage, and prevent allergic asthma. Although AIT is the only potentially curative treatment for AR, access and adherence continue to be problematic. Only a fraction of eligible patients actually undergo treatment, and attrition rates are high. An obvious limitation of SCIT includes the requirement of regular injections to be provided in the physician's office due to the potential for anaphylaxis. Sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) for home administration has been investigated as a potential alternative to address this limitation of SCIT.
Methods: A literature review was performed including the current findings from randomized clinical trials and meta-analyses with a discussion of the most recent evidence for the efficacy, safety, and dosing of allergen SLIT.
Results: The current data suggest that SLIT is effective for treatment of seasonal allergies, can potentially prevent asthma, and has a favorable safety profile. Head-to-head studies, however, are few, and comparative effectiveness still remains to be answered. Optimal treatment algorithms for SLIT have not yet been established, with wide variation in dosage selection and schedules. Similarly to SCIT, only a few allergens such as ragweed and grass pollen have been found to be effective in large clinical trials.
Conclusion: Recent data indicate that SLIT is an effective treatment modality for seasonal AR, improve quality of life, and can potentially prevent asthma but head-to head studies comparing SLIT to SCIT are needed.