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Sublingual Allergen Immunotherapy: Immunological Mechanisms and Prospects for Refined Vaccine Preparations

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Allergic diseases constitute a major health issue worldwide. Mainstay treatment constitutes allergen avoidance and pharmacotherapy for symptom relief, but allergen immunotherapy offers advantages of specific treatment with long lasting efficacy, and being able to modify the course of the disease. Conventional immunotherapy involves the subcutaneous injection of gradually increasing amounts of allergen extract but the use of current whole allergen extracts is restricted by the risk of adverse IgE-mediated events especially for potent allergens such as peanut and latex and for asthmatics. This has lead to interest in alternative routes of immunotherapy. Oral tolerance is a well-documented immune process and the sublingual route of administration of allergen immunotherapy is attracting interest. Recent meta-analyses show that sublingual allergen immunotherapy for grass pollen and house dust mite allergy is clinically effective and safer than injection immunotherapy. Some studies show SLIT induces changes of T cell anergy, immune deviation, blocking antibodies, and induction of regulatory T cells, as described for injection immunotherapy pointing to the need to target allergen-specific T cells, there is emergent evidence that the oral mucosa presents distinct regulatory features. Evidence suggests that oral dendritic cells play a key role in inducing tolerance especially when allergen is taken up via Fc receptor bound IgE. This suggests that although both would target allergen-specific T cells, allergen formulations may differ with respect to IgE epitopes for optimal SLIT compared with SCIT. Identification of the molecular nature of the allergen-DC receptor interaction is required to determine whether short peptides or recombinant allergen preparations and of suitable adjuvants specifically tailored for the sublingual route will allow the development of improved allergen formulations and delivery strategies for efficacy of treatment whilst decreasing IgE-mediated adverse effects.
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Keywords: Allergen; IgE antibody; T cell epitope; dendritic cell; immunotherapy; oral tolerance; peptide; recombinant allergen; sublingual

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Allergy, Immunology and Respiratory Medicine, Alfred Hospital and Monash University, Commercial Road,Melbourne Vic 3004, Australia.

Publication date: 2007-09-01

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