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Pediatr Allergy Immunol. 2003 Jun;14(3):216-21.

Immunomodulation during sublingual therapy in allergic children.

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Department of Experimental Medicine and Pathology, University 'La Sapienza', Rome, Italy.


The clinical efficacy of sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) has been demonstrated, but its mechanism of action is still controversial. The most recent experimental observations suggest that a critical role in the modulation of immune response is sustained by Th2 cytokines, such as interleukin-4 (IL-4), IL-5 and IL-13, by co-stimulatory molecules, such as CD40 on B cells, and by hormones and neuropeptides. To better understand whether SLIT affects immune responses we used a double-blind placebo-controlled design. Eighty-six children with mild asthma due to allergy to Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus (33 of whom also had rhinoconjunctivitis) were randomly assigned SLIT (n = 47) or placebo (n = 39). We assessed symptom scores using diary cards of each patient and determined the expression of CD40 on B cells and the serum concentration of ECP, IL-13, prolactin (PRL) and ACTH at enrolment and after 6 months of therapy. We observed a significant reduction in asthma and rhinitis scores in the immunotherapy group compared with the placebo group, no variation in CD40 and ACTH, but a significant decrease in ECP, IL-13 and PRL after 6 months of therapy (p <0.01). Our results confirm the efficacy and safety of SLIT, and lead us to believe that it could modulate the synthesis of Th2 cytokines, as revealed from the decrease of IL-13. In addition, the reduction of PRL might be a signal of reduced activation of T lymphocytes.

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