Subcutaneous and sublingual allergen-specific immunotherapy: a tale of two routes

Eur Ann Allergy Clin Immunol. 2020 Nov;52(6):245-257. doi: 10.23822/EurAnnACI.1764-1489.150. Epub 2020 Nov 3.


Specific immunotherapy is the only treatment acting on the causes and not only on symptoms of respiratory allergy. It was first introduced as subcutaneous immunotherapy (SCIT) with the aim to induce immunological tolerance to the administered allergen(s). In the 1980s, sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) was developed, mainly to improve the safety, which was a critical issue at that time. This article reviewed the available literature, including a large number of randomized controlled trials, meta-analyses, and real-life studies as well, on the outcomes of SCIT and SLIT concerning the treatment critical issues of the two routes, that are efficacy, safety, cost-effectiveness, and compliance to treatment. The efficacy of SCIT and SLIT is similar in respiratory allergy, providing, based on the induction of typical changes in the immunologic response, an early control of symptoms that steadily increases during the treatment and its efficacy lasts after the recommended duration of three years. Such results are the reason why SCIT and SLIT have economic advantage over symptomatic drugs.

Keywords: allergen immunotherapy; efficacy; respiratory allergy; safety; subcutaneous route; sublingual route.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Sublingual
  • Allergens / immunology
  • Animals
  • Desensitization, Immunologic / methods*
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / immunology
  • Hypersensitivity / therapy*
  • Immune Tolerance
  • Injections, Subcutaneous
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / immunology
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / therapy*


  • Allergens