• birch pollen allergy;
  • immunotherapy;
  • immunoblot;
  • specific IgE, IgG, IgG1, IgG4 response;
  • clinical benefit

Sera from 27 birch pollen-allergic patients who had undergone hyposensitization treatment for 22–41 months were studied by immunoblotting before and after therapy, whereby the levels of IgE, IgG and IgG1–4 antibodies directed against the major allergen Bet v I and minor allergens of birch pollen were monitored. The clinical benefit of immunotherapy (IT) was evaluated using a symptom specific questionnaire. In patients with good clinical response (responders, n=18), as defined by improvement of symptoms, anti-Bet v I IgE antibodies were found to decrease in 10/18 patients (55.5%), whereas in 6/18 (33.3%) no change and in two cases (11.2%) an increase of specific IgE was observed. In the group of patients with unsatisfactory clinical outcome (non-responders, n=9), 3/9 patients (33.3%) showed a decrease, 3/9 (33.3%) no change and 3/9 (33.3%) an increase in levels of IgE antibodies directed against Bet v I. In the case of minor allergens, 5/18 responders (27.7%) and 8/9 non-responders (88.8%) showed specific IgE before IT. In the responder group, no increase of specific IgE could be observed after IT. In non-responders, however, an increase of IgE directed against minor allergens was seen in 3/9 patients (33.3%). In all patients, regardless of therapeutical success, IT-induced elevated levels of specific IgG, IgG1 and in particular IgG4 directed against Bet v I vere found. Regarding minor allergens, a heterogeneous pattern of IgG responses without significant correlation to clinical benefit was observed. Our results indicate that changes in IgG reactivity patterns against Bet v I and minor allergens, as shown by the immunoblot technique, did not correlate with good or bad clinical outcome.