, Volume 1, Issue 1, pp 68-78,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 17 Dec 2013

Epicutaneous Immunotherapy for Aeroallergen and Food Allergy

Opinion statement

IgE-mediated allergies today affect up to 30 % of the population in industrialized countries. Allergen immunotherapy is the only disease-modifying treatment option with a long-term effect. However, very few patients (<5 %) choose immunotherapy, due to the long treatment duration (between 3–5 years) and possible local and systemic allergic side effects of the allergen administrations. The latter occur when an allergen accidentally reaches the blood circulation. Therefore, the ideal application route for allergen immunotherapy should be characterized by two hallmarks: firstly, by a high number of potent antigen-presenting cells, which enhance efficacy and thus shorten treatment duration. Secondly, the allergen administration site is ideally non-vascularized, so that inadvertent systemic distribution of the allergen and consequent systemic allergic side effects are minimized. The epidermis contains high numbers of potent antigen-presenting Langerhans cells and, as an epithelium, is non-vascularized. Therefore, the epidermis represents an interesting administration route. Historical evidence for the clinical efficacy of epicutaneous allergy immunotherapy (EPIT) has now been strengthened by a number of recent double-blinded placebo-controlled clinical trials performed by independent groups. We review the immunological rationale, history and clinical experience with epicutaneous allergy immunotherapy.