• FcɛRI;
  • immunoglobulin E;
  • immunohistology;
  • Langerhans cell;
  • nasal biopsy;
  • nasal steroid;
  • specific immunotherapy

Background:  Specific allergen immunotherapy (SIT) and nasal steroids (NS) are considered effective anti-inflammatory treatments for allergic rhinitis, although their mechanism of action differs.

Objective:  The aim of this study was to examine the effect of treatment with NS and SIT on different populations of inflammatory cells in the nasal mucosa and to compare cell numbers before and during the birch pollen season in patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis.

Methods:  In a randomized, double-blind, double dummy comparative study, 41 patients with seasonal rhinoconjunctivitis were treated with birch SIT or NS (budesonide 400 μg daily). Treatment with NS started before the birch pollen season and at the same time SIT-treated patients reached the maintenance dose. Nasal biopsies for immunohistochemistry were obtained before the season and start of the treatments and at the peak of the pollen season during treatment.

Results:  Symptoms of rhinoconjunctivitis increased significantly in both groups during the pollen season but less in the NS-treated group and the difference between the treatment groups was significant at the end of the season (P = 0.03). Immunohistochemistry of nasal biopsies from NS-treated patients showed significantly fewer CD1a+, IgE+ and FcɛRI+ cells during the season compared with preseason (P = 0.02, P = 0.001 and P = 0.0004, respectively) and with seasonal values of the SIT-treated group (P = 0.002, P = 0.002 and P = 0.0004 respectively).

Conclusion:  Treatment with NS but not SIT decreased the numbers of CD1a+, IgE+ and FcɛRI+ cells during the birch pollen season. Our data indicate that treatment with NS has a broader anti-inflammatory range than SIT.