The safety of sublingual-swallow immunotherapy: an analysis of published studies


Giorgio Ciprandi, Allergologia – U.O. ORL, Dipartimento Regionale Testa-Collo, Padiglione Specialità (piano terzo), A.O. Ospedale San Martino, Largo R. Benzi 10, 16132 Genoa, Italy.


Background As the main target of sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) is to reduce at most the occurrence of adverse events (AE), safety represents a critical issue. This aspect deserves particular mention when a higher dose of allergen extract than traditional subcutaneous immunotherapy (SCIT) is required to be effective: that may be up to 500 times that employed for SCIT.

Objective All published controlled studies concerning SLIT-swallow were analysed to evaluate AE rates.

Methods Studies were subdivided in two groups: (i) studies using low allergen dose (LAD), i.e. ranging from 1 to 50 times the dose commonly administered with SCIT, and (ii) studies with high allergen dose (HAD), i.e. ranging from 50 to 500 times the dose administered with SCIT.

Results Twenty-five studies were altogether analysed: 13 studies belonged to the low-dose group, 12 belonged to the high-dose group. We considered all patients with at least one AE. Local reactions were significantly more frequent in the LAD group than in the HAD group (P<0.0001), while there was no difference in the rate of systemic reactions. Severe systemic reactions were never reported.

Conclusion This study represents the first analysis of the safety of SLIT concerning the allergen dose employed in the treatment. There is evidence that AE occurrence is substantially not dose-dependent. This fact highlights two main clinical aspects: the elevated tolerability of SLIT in general and the safety of HAD regimen.