Less is More? A new method of immunotherapy offers significant benefit after only 8 injections

Published online: February 21, 2017

A new approach to treating grass allergies offers potential as a shorter and safer alternative to traditional allergen immunotherapy (a.k.a. “allergy shots”), a recent study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI) by Ellis and colleagues suggests.

This was the first completed Phase II study using synthetic peptides to treat grass pollen allergy. One of the largest ever conducted on this allergen, the Phase II clinical trial looked at the effectiveness and safety of a grass peptide-based immunotherapy, compared to a placebo, in 226 study participants, who were treated with either the peptides or a placebo four months before grass pollen season. After just eight injections (given every two weeks) for 14 weeks in total  they were exposed to grass pollen in the Environmental Exposure Unit (EEU) at Kingston General Hospital, a state-of-the-art controlled environmental exposure facility that enables up to 140 participants to be tested at the same time.  

The study showed that participants who received the peptide treatment showed a significant reduction in allergy symptoms such as sneezing, nasal congestions and runny nose upon exposure to grass pollen, compared to their baseline EEU challenge, with no serious reactions such as anaphylaxis observed in this trial. A Phase III seasonal study will have to confirm these results.

Also known as SPIREs, synthetic peptides are showing promise as an alternative to traditional vaccines. Unlike traditional grass allergy injections, which use all of the proteins from grass, this kind of therapy works through a different mechanism, using tiny bits of specific proteins to target the most important immune cells. Peptide based immunotherapy continues to be studied, and offers potential to shorten the duration of treatment required to improve allergic symptoms.

The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI) is an official scientific journal of the AAAAI, and is the most-cited journal in the field of allergy and clinical immunology.

Close-up of pine tree branches in Winter Close-up of pine tree branches in Winter