Intralymphatic Immunotherapy : A Novel Route to Ameliorate Allergic Rhinitis Due to Pollen

Sammanfattning: Allergy to pollen and animal dander is a major public health problem. Close to 30% of the population have symptoms from the upper and/or lower respiratory tract when they meet fur animals or pollen. Whereas symptom-relieving medications have a good to sufficient effect on about 80% of those affected, a large group of 10–20% have severe symptoms, despite medication, with an impact on well-being and ability to work. In Sweden, the annual cost of allergy was calculated at €1.3 billion in 2014.Immunotherapy is effective in treating and preventing pollen allergy and allergic asthma, but is expensive, complicated, requiring 40 injections, and takes more than three years to complete if subcutaneous injections are used. Tablets placed under the tongue are another method, with one tablet taken every day for three years. Only 1.5‰ receive such treatment, yet just over 3% would need it.With intralymphatic immunotherapy, a small dose of allergen is given in a lymph node in the groin on 3 occasions, one month apart. As this method takes only eight weeks, it is a much faster and less costly treatment. However, although several studies have shown that the treatment is safe, its efficacy remains the subject of doubt.Our pilot study in 2012, with a 3-year follow-up to 2015, showed encouraging results, and was followed by a double-blind randomised study with 72 participants from 2014 to 2018. The research subjects then received treatment with birch and grass pollen extract or one extract and a placebo. Regardless of treatment, symptoms, quality of life and medication consumption improved during the birch and grass pollen seasons in the 3 years after treatment. Increased frequencies of T-regulatory lymphocytes may explain the non-specific effects.In 2017 to 2018, we conducted a double-blind study with 38 participants, half of whom received placebo and half, active treatment. In this study, we saw no difference between the treatment groups in the first year after treatment. However, after discontinuation and unblinding in 2019, i.e., two years after treatment, the actively treated group improved in terms of symptoms, and quality of life was improved compared with the placebo group despite less need for medication. T-regulatory lymphocytes increased one year after treatment only in the actively treated group.A long-term follow-up of the research subjects from our two larger studies in 2022, i.e., five to eight years after treatment, showed in the double-blind study without a pure placebo that the scores for symptoms, medication use, and quality of life remained as low as after the first three years. In the placebo-controlled study, a statistically significant improvement in symptoms remained during the grass pollen season. Analysing the two studies together, symptom improvement was significant even during the birch pollen season. Thus, although the effect does not seem to diminish, those who did not receive birch, but only grass, needed to use more medication during the birch pollen season in 2022, seven to eight years after treatment. Moreover, those who did not receive grass but only birch needed more medication during the grass pollen season. This may suggest that the non-specific effect begins to wane after seven to eight years.Allergy to pollen is a major problem for individuals and society, where symptom-relieving treatment with drugs is not enough for many. They can be helped with immunotherapy, which takes at least three years, is expensive and fraught with side effects. In contrast, intralymphatic immunotherapy involves three injections over eight weeks. Our three studies show that the treatment is safe and indicate that it has a clinical effect up to eight years after treatment. T-regulatory cells appear to be important to the immunological mechanism, leading to tolerance to pollen.

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