Use of A-type CpG oligodeoxynucleotides as an adjuvant in allergen-specific immunotherapy in humans: a phase I/IIa clinical trial


Correspondence: Thomas M. Kündig, Department of Dermatology, University Hospital Zurich, Gloriastrasse 31, CH-8091 Zurich. E-mail:


Background B-type CpG oligodeoxynucleotides (ODN) is currently used in clinical trials because of its prolonged half–life, which is due to its phosphorothioate backbone. A-type CpG ODN is a stronger inducer of IFN but has an unstable phosphodiester backbone that has so far prohibited its clinical use. However, upon association with virus-like particles (VLP) consisting of the bacteriophage Qβ coat protein, A-type CpG ODN can be stabilized and can become an efficient adjuvant in mice. Therefore, the phase I/IIa study presented represents the first test of A-type CpGs in humans.

Objective To test the safety, tolerability and clinical efficacy of QbG10 as an adjuvant for subcutaneous immunotherapy with a house dust mite (HDM) allergen extract in allergic patients.

Methods A single centre, open-label phase I/IIa study evaluated the safety, tolerability and clinical efficacy of QbG10 as an adjuvant to immunotherapy with a subcutaneous HMD allergen extract in 20 patients suffering from HDM allergy. Twenty-one patients were enrolled between March and July 2005. Individual immunotherapy lasted 10 weeks. Clinical end-points included questionnaires, conjunctival provocation, skin prick tests and the measurement of allergen-specific IgG and IgE.

Results QbG10 was well tolerated. Almost complete tolerance to the allergen was observed in conjunctival provocation testing after treatment with QbG10, and symptoms of rhinitis and allergic asthma were significantly reduced. Within 10 weeks of therapy, patients were nearly symptom-free and this amelioration lasted for at least 38 weeks post-treatment. Following injections of QbG10 and HDM allergen extract, allergen-specific IgG increased, while there was a transient increase in allergen-specific IgE titres. Skin reactivity to HDM was reduced.

Conclusion The subcutaneous application of HDM allergen, together with A-type CpG ODN packaged into VLP, was safe. All patients achieved practically complete alleviation of allergy symptoms after 10 weeks of immunotherapy. This promising clinical outcome calls for larger placebo-controlled phase II studies.