New Asthma Treatments
Over the last few years, doctors have learned many new things about allergy. This new knowledge has led to new asthma treatments and treatments for other allergic diseases.
Specific allergen immunotherapy ("Allergy Shots")
This treatment has been available since 1911. This treatment decreases sensitivity to the things to which the person is allergic. The treatment is a type of vaccination because it increases the person’s resistance to the things causing their allergies.
The allergy vaccines are made from pollens, mold spores, animal dander, dust mites or bee venom. Allergy shots are helpful for nasal allergy, asthma and bee sting allergy.
Researchers are trying to find new ways to give allergy vaccines. In the future, vaccines may be nose sprays or drops under the tongue.
Immunoglobulin E (IgE) and anti-igE
Our immune system includes cells and proteins. The proteins include antibodies and cytokines. There are many types of antibodies. Immunoglobulin E (IgE) is the type of antibody that causes allergic reactions. IgE is found in the blood and in organs. IgE binds to certain body cells. These cells include mast cells and basophils. After IgE binds to the cells, allergy particles can bind to the IgE. When this happens, the cell releases many chemicals. These chemicals cause allergy symptoms such as itching, sneezing and wheezing.
If treatment could prevent the release of the chemicals, there would be no itching, sneezing or wheezing. If IgE could be stopped from binding to the cells, the chemicals would not be released.
Omalizumab is a man-made antibody against IgE (anti-IgE). This treatment is given by injection (shots) once or twice a month. Omalizumab stops IgE from binding to the cells. In 2003, the FDA approved this treatment for teens and adults with uncontrolled asthma.
Some day, people with other allergy problems might be helped by anti-IgE injections. For example, people severely allergic to a food, a medicine, or latex rubber might be helped by injections of anti-IgE.
Cytokines and cytokine inhibitors
When the immune system is active, the cells release proteins called cytokines. The cytokines help some parts of the immune response and shut down other parts. Chemists have been making new treatments called cytokine inhibitors. These inhibitors can prevent the cytokines from causing allergy problems. The inhibitors have not yet been approved by the FDA. Some day, cytokine inhibitors might be used to treat asthma and other allergic diseases.
Peptide immunotherapy ("Allergy shots")
Current allergy shots (immunotherapy) are made from allergenic proteins. However, chemists can make allergy shots from peptides, which are tiny parts of allergenic proteins.
In research, peptide allergy shots have been used to treat people allergic to cats. People who were given peptide allergy shots had fewer allergy problems in their nose and lungs. In the future, peptide immunotherapy may be approved by the FDA.