Allergy shots may provide lasting benefits, study says
|CNN's Dr. Steve Salvatore reports on immunotherapy
August 11, 1999
Web posted at: 5:19 p.m. EDT (2119 GMT)
(CNN) -- Doctors have long known that a series of allergy shots, or immunotherapy, works to stop allergic reactions. New research indicates their effects may also be long-lasting, according to a study in this week's New England Journal of Medicine.
Researchers at the National Heart and Lung Institute in London, led by Dr.
Stephen R. Durham, found that "three to four years of grass-pollen
immunotherapy remains effective for at least three years after
the discontinuation of the injections."
The researchers conducted tests for three years on 47 volunteers who had taken immunotherapy for a period of three to four years before the study.
The authors found that allergy injections change the immune system from an allergic state to a more normal state.
"Certain things in the immune system that moves people towards allergy was moved away from allergy by the treatment. So what you see is the patient gets better, stays better, and the immune system behaves more towards normal than towards the allergic state," said Dr. Ira Finegold of St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center.
Doctors say that, when done properly, allergy shots are effective 95 percent of the time. Durham's group said further research is needed to determine whether shots started early in life can help prevent allergies from worsening over time or even stop the development of multiple allergies.
The authors said the research must be conducted on children in order to discover whether immunotherapy can ward off a lifetime of allergies.
This research "provides the best evidence to date that (the
treatment) has long-term, perhaps permanent, benefits,"
according to an editorial in the journal by Dr. Franklin
Adkinson Jr. of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in
Hay fever, or allergic rhinitis, usually appears around age 10. It affects 10 to 20 percent of population of the United States and northern Europe and costs $6 billion annually in the United States alone, according to Adkinson.
But these shots are not the answer for all allergy sufferers. While side effects are usually minimal, experts say only people with severe symptoms should consider the treatment.
Some people prefer medications to frequent allergy injections, because proper immunotherapy treatment requires a long-term commitment with monthly visits to the doctor for years.
The shots are not going to provide an easy fix for hay fever sufferers, Adkinson warned. Immunotherapy works best when patients distance themselves from whatever triggers their allergies.
"If patients sensitive to animal dander are unwilling to
banish pets from their living quarters, allergen immunotherapy
may be a waste of time and money," Adkinson said.
Medical Correspondent Steve Salvatore and Reuters contributed to this report.
Chat transcript: CNN's Rhonda Rowland discusses allergy treatments
May 19, 1999
Experimental allergy shot attaches to antibody
May 17, 1999
Alternative therapies gain ground among allergy sufferers
April 16, 1999
Medical task force offers guidelines for allergy sufferers
February 10, 1999
Study: allergy shots little use to young asthmatics
January 29, 1997
Allergic to po -- po -- POLLEN?
The Online Allergy Center
Mayo: Understanding allergy: An adult's guide to relief
Allergy, Asthma, Immunology of Rochester
Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.
LATEST HEALTH STORIES:
China SARS numbers pass 5,000
Report: Form of HIV in humans by 1940
Fewer infections for back-sleeping babies
Pneumonia vaccine may help heart, too