Educational Articles

How strong is the evidence that immunotherapy in children prevents the progression of allergy and asthma?

Current Opinion in Allergy & Clinical Immunology:
December 2007 – Volume 7 – Issue 6 – p 556-560
Doi: 10.1097/ACI.0b013e3282f1d67e
Immunotherapy: Edited by David Broide and Giovanni Passalacqua 

Purpose of review: The purpose of this review is to describe the scientific evidence that specific immunotherapy can prevent the development of asthma in patients suffering from rhinoconjunctivitis as well as reduce the number of new allergies developing.

Recent findings: Proposed strategies for the prevention of the development of allergic rhinoconjunctivitis and asthma include allergen avoidance, pharmacological treatment (antihistamines and steroids) and specific immunotherapy. Long-term follow-up on immunotherapy studies demonstrates that specific immunotherapy for 3 years shows persistent long-term effects on clinical symptoms after termination of treatment and long-term, preventive effects on later development of asthma in children with seasonal rhinoconjunctivitis. It is so far the only treatment for allergic diseases that has been shown to be able to prevent worsening of disease and development of asthma. Also, specific immunotherapy seems to reduce the development of new allergic sensitivities as measured by the skin prick test as well as specific IgE measurements.

Summary: Specific immunotherapy is the only treatment that interferes with the basic pathophysiological mechanisms of the allergic disease and thereby carries the potential for changes in the long-term prognosis of respiratory allergy. Specific immunotherapy should be recognized not only as first-line therapeutic treatment for allergic rhinoconjunctivitis, but also as secondary preventive treatment for respiratory allergic diseases.

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