Background: Few placebo-controlled studies have examined the effect of allergen specific immunotherapy (SIT) on early and late phase asthmatic reactions. In this placebo-controlled study we have investigated the effect of 1 year of SIT with standardized birch pollen extract on early and late phase asthmatic reactions in adult asthmatic patients.
Methods: Nineteen patients with a history of birch-pollen-induced seasonal symptoms from upper and lower airways, positive skin prick test and in vitro specific immunoglobulin E to birch pollen extract were included. Allergen and methacholine bronchial challenges were performed and blood samples obtained for analyses of total eosinophil count and eosinophil cationic protein (ECP) in serum, before and after 1 year of immunotherapy treatment.
Results: All patients developed early and 16 of 19 both early and late phase asthmatic reactions. A significant increase in allergen dose was required to evoke early asthmatic reaction in the immunotherapy group (P < 0.01) after 1 year of treatment. The difference between the groups was significant (P < 0.01). Also the size of late asthmatic reaction was significantly reduced in the SIT group compared with placebo treated patients (P < 0.01). Twenty-four hours after allergen challenge methacholine sensitivity, number of total eosinophils and ECP increased significantly in the placebo (P < 0.02, P < 0.05 and P < 0.05 respectively), but not in the SIT group.
Conclusion: Allergen SIT with standardized birch pollen extract decreased early and late asthmatic responses following bronchial challenge in pollen allergic patients, thus confirming anti-inflammatory effect of the treatment.