Background: Evaluation of the efficacy of allergen-specific immunotherapy (IT) with pollen extracts is complicated by annual variation in pollen intensity. Our study aimed to evaluate the efficacy of birch and grass IT, taking into consideration these variations.
Methods: After 1 year of observation, 52 patients with rhinoconjunctivitis and allergy to birch as well as grass pollen were allocated to double-blinded clustered IT with aluminum-adsorbed extract produced from either birch (Betula verrucosa) pollen or grass (Phleum pratense) pollen. After 1 year of treatment, the patients continued IT with their original extract and also received the other extract. During the three consecutive pollen seasons, the rhinoconjunctivitis symptom score and the use of antihistamines, eye-drops, and oral prednisolone were recorded. Longitudinal data analysis was used to investigate the relation between different pollen counts and the magnitude of clinical efficacy.
Results: An effect of IT was found on symptom score, antihistamine intake, and eye-drop use for both birch and grass (P values <0.05). The mean reduction in symptom score/medication by IT ranged from 24% to 95%, depending on mean seasonal pollen counts. A minimum mean seasonal grass-pollen count of 20–30 pollen grains m3 was required for the efficacy of grass IT to emerge.
Conclusions: A model was developed for evaluation of efficacy in longitudinal IT studies, taking the differences in annual pollen counts into consideration. The model showed a significant beneficial role of pollen IT in rhinoconjunctivitis patients allergic to birch and grass pollen.