The role of allergy immunotherapy in the treatment of asthma

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Abstract

Purpose of review

Asthma and allergic rhinitis are two of the most widespread chronic medical conditions. Asthma, a condition which encompasses chronic inflammation of the lower airway resulting in expiratory obstruction, may represent an end phase along the allergic disease spectrum ultimately stemming initially from nasal allergic rhinitis and bronchial hyper-reactivity. The purpose of this review was to evaluate the available published literature over the past 12 months regarding the role of allergy immunotherapy in the treatment of asthma.

Recent findings

Recent clinical trials, systematic reviews, and meta-analyses have demonstrated that allergen-specific immunotherapy (ASI), especially sublingual immunotherapy for as short as 12 months, may help improve asthma symptoms and reduce medication usage. However, studies have not demonstrated overall improvement in pulmonary function tests despite improvement in symptoms. Barriers to asthmatic patients initiating and maintaining ASI include lack of payment by health insurer, inconvenience, and potentially worsening asthma exacerbations/symptoms for patients with severe disease.

Summary

ASI may change the natural course of allergic asthma by reducing the risk of acute respiratory exacerbations and symptoms. Additional studies are necessary to examine whether early treatment of allergy sensitivities with ASI may ultimately prevent the progression to asthma.

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