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J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2010 Feb;125(2 Suppl 2):S306-13. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2009.10.064.

Allergen immunotherapy.

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Department of Respiratory Medicine, Brighton & Sussex Medical School, Brighton, United Kingdom.


Specific immunotherapy (SIT) involves the administration of allergen extracts to achieve clinical tolerance of those allergens that cause symptoms in patients with allergic conditions. Immunotherapy is effective in patients with mild forms of allergic disease and also in those who do not respond well to standard drug therapy. Most SIT is given by means of injection, but there is increasing interest in performing SIT through the sublingual route. SIT remains the treatment of choice for patients with systemic allergic reactions to wasp and bee stings and should be considered as an option in patients with allergic rhinitis, asthma, or both. SIT can modify the course of allergic disease by reducing the risk of new allergic sensitizations and inhibiting the development of clinical asthma in children treated for allergic rhinitis. The precise mechanisms responsible for the beneficial effects of SIT remain a matter of research and debate. An effect on regulatory T cells seems most probable and is associated with switching of allergen-specific B cells toward IgG4 production. Few direct comparisons of SIT and drug therapy have been made. Existing data suggest that the effects of SIT take longer to develop, but once established, SIT achieves long-lasting relief of allergic symptoms, whereas the benefits of drugs only last as long as they are continued.

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