April 22, 2024
Allergy Treatment

New Advances in Allergy Treatment Causes of Allergies

There are many different triggers that can cause allergic reactions in people. The most common causes are pollen, dust mites, mold, pet dander and certain foods. Pollen is one of the leading causes of seasonal allergies such as hay fever. Trees, grass and weeds release tiny pollen grains into the air as a part of their reproductive cycle. When these pollen grains are inhaled by susceptible individuals, they can cause symptoms like sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes and throat. Dust mites are microscopic bugs that live in household dust and thrive in warm, humid environments like mattresses, pillows, carpets and upholstery. Their feces and body parts are major indoor allergen triggers. Mold spores released from various molds found both indoors and outdoors can also lead to allergic reactions. Pet dander which consists of shed skin cells from cats, dogs and other furry pets is a common cause of pet allergies. Eggs, peanuts, soy, wheat, shellfish, tree nuts etc. are some of the most common food allergens. Genetics also plays a role – if a child has allergic parents, they are more likely to have allergies as well.

Medication Options

There are various medication options available for Allergy Treatment. Antihistamines are probably the most common medications prescribed. They work by blocking the effects of histamine which is a chemical released during an allergic reaction and causes classic symptoms like sneezing, watery eyes and itchy skin. Antihistamines come in oral pills or liquid form as well as nasal sprays. For mild allergic rhinitis, over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamines may be sufficient. For moderate to severe cases, prescription strength antihistamines are recommended. Corticosteroid nasal sprays are often prescribed along with antihistamines to reduce inflammation inside the nose during allergy season. For asthma related to allergies, inhalers containing corticosteroids provide relief from symptoms. Leukotriene receptor antagonists are pills used to prevent or reduce asthma attacks and also help with allergy symptoms. Decongestants are sometimes used for temporary relief from nasal congestion. Oral desensitization (allergy shots) have been used for decades to help desensitize patients to their allergens over time.

Allergen Immunotherapy

Allergen-specific immunotherapy, also known as allergy shots, remains one of the most effective treatments available for various allergic conditions such as allergic rhinitis, asthma, stinging insect allergy and more. It works by exposing the patient to gradually increasing amounts of allergen extracts containing specific allergens like pollen, dust mites, pet dander, venom etc. through weekly injections over 3-5 years. This controlled exposure modifies the patient’s immune system by inducing blocking antibodies and suppressing inflammatory cells. As a result, the body becomes less reactive and less likely to produce symptoms upon exposure to those specific allergens. Studies have shown immunotherapy provides long-term benefits and protection against new allergies. It reduces medication needs over 60-80% and also has potential to slow or prevent the progression from seasonal allergic rhinitis to asthma. Side effects are typically mild like redness or swelling at the injection site. Rarely, severe reactions may occur. When administered under medical supervision, it has a good safety record. Allergy shots are considered the best treatment option for getting long-term relief and reducing sensitivity to specific environmental and venom allergens.

Biologic Medications

For patients with moderate to severe persistent allergic asthma who are inadequately controlled on traditional medications, biologic therapies targeting certain components of the allergic inflammatory response offer a promising new treatment approach. Omalizumab (Xolair) was the first biologic approved for treatment of uncontrolled allergic asthma. It works by blocking immunoglobulin E (IgE), a type of antibody that plays a key role in triggering asthma attacks after exposure to allergens. Studies have shown omalizumab significantly reduces asthma attacks, emergency room visits and use of oral steroids. Mepolizumab and reslizumab target a protein called IL-5 which is involved in production and activation of white blood cells called eosinophils known to cause inflammation and thickening of the airways in asthma. Results from clinical trials of these drugs also demonstrate reductions in asthma attacks and improvements in symptoms, lung function and quality of life for eligible patients. Biologics are administered via injection or intravenous infusion on a regular schedule and require ongoing monitoring by asthma specialists. They are generally very well-tolerated and provide a new avenue of relief for patients with severe allergic asthma.

New Approaches on the Horizon

While immunotherapy and medications have helped manage millions of people with allergies, scientists continue researching novel ways to better prevent and treat allergy symptoms. One exciting development is the use of natural allergen-specific regulatory T cells (Tregs) generated from a patient’s own blood which are then expanded and reinfused to boost allergen tolerance. Early clinical trials of this approach for ragweed pollen and peanut allergies have shown promise with reduced symptoms after treatment. Anti-IgE monoclonal antibody therapies may also have potential as a substitute or supplement to allergen immunotherapy, especially for difficult to treat indoor allergies. Targeting other signaling molecules involved in the allergic cascade like interleukin-31 continues to be a focus of new drug development efforts. Researchers are also studying epigenetic strategies to modify gene expression patterns and reduce allergic sensitivity. Advances in microbiome research may one day help restore normal balance of nasal bacteria and prevent development of certain allergies. Overall, tremendous progress has been made in understanding the complex immunology behind allergic diseases and new applications of stem cell, genetic and immunomodulatory therapies hold hope for even more effective prevention and customized treatment of allergies in the coming years.

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1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it