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Research

Asthma and Allergy

Typically, a person has to get allergy shots for 3 to 5 years to become tolerant to an allergen. But allergy shots can be a traumatic experience for a pre-school child. It’s not surprising that many parents discontinue treatment, putting their children at greater risk for developing bothersome allergies later in life. A new form of treatment may actually encourage more parents to start their children on allergy therapy.

Pediatric researchers at ASRI are involved in several Phase III clinical trials testing sublingual immunotherapy, a method of allergy treatment that uses an allergen solution under the tongue. The allergen interacts with the immune system and changes the body’s ability to react to allergens. Popular in Europe for many years, sublingual immunotherapy is beginning to gain interest in the United States.

According to David Skoner, MD, a pediatric researcher at ASRI and Director of Allegheny General Hospital’s Division of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, sublingual therapy is a more tolerable allergy management option for children than injection immunotherapy. And it can be easily administered by the parent at home. That could encourage more parents to start their children on allergy therapy at a younger age.

“It is important to intervene as soon as child is beginning to show signs of allergic sensitivity,” said Dr. Skoner. “Sublingual immunotherapy could help children from developing full-blown allergies, which could potentially progress into asthma for some kids. Our research is showing positive results and we believe sublingual immunotherapy could significantly reduce allergy symptoms in both children and adults.”

Deborah Gentile, MD, a pediatric researcher at ASRI and Director of Research of Allegheny General Hospital’s Division of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, is also on the forefront of several studies showing a correlation between allergies and environmental/lifestyle factors. She has found that babies who are exposed to cigarette smoke during infancy develop an immune response that later triggers the onset of allergies and asthma. Furthermore, Dr. Gentile has recently found a strong link between obesity and allergy/asthma. “Our results show that the immune chemicals that are responsible for allergy and asthma are significantly increased in overweight and obese adults with allergy. This finding has important implications for the prevention and treatment of these diseases."

In addition, ASRI researchers are testing the effectiveness of an asthma medication in reducing the severity and length of the common cold, as well as testing a new vaccine that could prevent RSV, or the respiratory syncytial virus. They also continue to test new medications for the treatment of allergy and asthma in both adults and children.

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