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What's new in allergy and immunology
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What's new in allergy and immunology
All topics are updated as new evidence becomes available and our peer review process is complete.
Literature review current through: Jul 2016. | This topic last updated: Aug 10, 2016.

The following represent additions to UpToDate from the past six months that were considered by the editors and authors to be of particular interest. The most recent What's New entries are at the top of each subsection.


Omalizumab for allergic asthma in children 6 to 11 years of age (July 2016)

Omalizumab, a monoclonal antibody to immunoglobulin E (IgE), is an option for patients with moderate to severe persistent asthma and sensitization to perennial aeroallergens who are inadequately controlled on inhaled glucocorticoids. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has now lowered the approved age range from 12 to 6 years of age, expanding the therapeutic options in step 5 asthma management in children [1]. (See "Asthma in children younger than 12 years: Treatment of persistent asthma with controller medications", section on 'Step-up therapy' and "Asthma in children younger than 12 years: Treatment of persistent asthma with controller medications", section on 'Anti-IgE therapy' and "Anti-IgE therapy", section on 'Omalizumab therapy in asthma'.)

House dust mite sublingual immunotherapy for allergic asthma (May 2016)

Injection allergen immunotherapy with house dust mite extract has demonstrated benefit in patients with asthma and house dust mite allergy, but is inconvenient and carries a small risk of serious allergic reactions. Sublingual immunotherapy tablets (SLIT-tablets) are a safer form of allergen immunotherapy with proven efficacy in allergic rhinoconjunctivitis, but studies in patients with allergic asthma are limited. In a randomized trial of over 800 house dust mite-sensitive adults with asthma not controlled by inhaled budesonide and short-acting beta-agonists, subjects were treated with house dust mite SLIT-tablets or placebo for 7 to 12 months, after which inhaled budesonide was gradually withdrawn and then stopped [2]. House dust mite SLIT significantly prolonged the time to first moderate or severe asthma exacerbation, reducing the absolute risk of an exacerbation during budesonide withdrawal from 32 to 25 percent with placebo and SLIT, respectively. However, clinically meaningful improvements in other measures of asthma symptoms were not clearly demonstrated. Thus, further study is needed to assess the effectiveness of SLIT-tablets in patients with allergic asthma. HDM SLIT-tablets are not yet available in the United States, but are available in Australia, Japan, and parts of Europe. (See "Sublingual immunotherapy for allergic rhinoconjunctivitis and asthma", section on 'Moderate-persistent asthma'.)

New guidelines regarding the endocrine effects of long-term inhaled glucocorticoids in children (April 2016)

The Pediatric Endocrine Society Drugs and Therapeutics Committee released guidelines regarding adrenal insufficiency in children on long-term inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) [3]. The guidelines recommend testing for adrenal insufficiency in children and adolescents who are taking long-term ICS (eg, >6 months) and have symptoms suggesting adrenal insufficiency (hypoglycemia, altered mental status, fatigue, weakness, anorexia, Cushingoid features, growth failure, or weight loss). The guidelines also suggest screening asymptomatic children and adolescents who are taking high-dose ICS. However, because of the rarity of clinically significant adrenal insufficiency, we prefer to follow an individualized determination of the need for screening, based on the presence of the following risk factors: >6 months' use of ICS at doses exceeding those considered "high," combined use of high-dose ICS and intranasal glucocorticoids or intermittent use of systemic glucocorticoids, and low body mass index (BMI) (eg, <15th percentile for age). The first step in screening for adrenal insufficiency is measurement of an 8 AM serum cortisol, followed by additional testing based on the result. (See "Major side effects of inhaled glucocorticoids", section on 'Children and adolescents'.)

A second monoclonal antibody against interleukin-5 approved for severe eosinophilic asthma (April 2016)

Reslizumab, a monoclonal antibody to interleukin (IL)-5, has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for add-on maintenance therapy of severe asthma in patients who are age 18 or older and have an eosinophilic phenotype [4]. It is similar to mepolizumab, which was approved in late 2015. In clinical trials of reslizumab, an eosinophilic phenotype was defined as a peripheral blood absolute eosinophil count ≥400/microL. Studies in patients with severe eosinophilic asthma have shown that reslizumab reduces the rate of exacerbations by approximately 50 percent compared with placebo [5,6]. Reslizumab is administered intravenously at four-week intervals. The US FDA has added a boxed warning because anaphylaxis occurred in 0.3 percent of treated patients. (See "Treatment of severe asthma in adolescents and adults", section on 'Reslizumab'.)

Safety of fluticasone-salmeterol combination therapy in asthma (March 2016)

In early studies, a small increase in asthma-related deaths associated with salmeterol led the US Food and Drug Administration to place a boxed warning on the use of salmeterol in asthma. While concerning, the number of events was small, and the magnitude of the risk was unclear. In addition, it could not be determined if the potential risk of salmeterol could be mitigated by combining it with an inhaled glucocorticoid. The safety of salmeterol in combination with fluticasone has been assessed in a multicenter trial, in which almost 12,000 adolescents and adults with persistent asthma were randomly assigned to take inhaled fluticasone or the combination of inhaled fluticasone-salmeterol (in a single inhaler) for 26 weeks [7]. The rate of serious asthma-related adverse events was similar in the two groups, and no deaths occurred in either group. In addition, no difference was noted in the rate of asthma-related hospitalizations. Thus, for patients over age 12 who do not have a history of life-threatening asthma events, data are reassuring about the safety of fluticasone-salmeterol in a fixed-dose inhaler. (See "Beta agonists in asthma: Controversy regarding chronic use", section on 'Potential risk mitigation'.)


New guidelines for the management of Stevens-Johnson/toxic epidermal necrolysis syndrome (August 2016)

The British Association of Dermatologists released new guidelines for the management of Stevens-Johnson syndrome/toxic epidermal necrolysis (SJS/TEN), a severe and potentially fatal mucocutaneous drug reaction [8]. The guidelines provide evidence-based recommendations for the diagnosis, severity assessment, and management of SJS/TEN. Specific areas covered include initial management, supportive care, and therapies intended to reduce mortality, such as intravenous immune globulins, systemic corticosteroids, and cyclosporine. The treatment of eye involvement, including systemic therapies and amniotic membrane transplantation to prevent permanent ocular sequelae, as well as the management of oral, urogenital, and airway mucosal involvement are also addressed. (See "Stevens-Johnson syndrome and toxic epidermal necrolysis: Management, prognosis, and long-term sequelae", section on 'General principles'.)

Mild skin-limited allergic reactions to antibiotics in children (June 2016)

It is not uncommon for young children to develop mild skin-limited reactions (eg, rash, hives) to antibiotics, particularly amoxicillin, during treatment for routine infections. Most of these reactions do not represent serious drug allergy, but IgE-mediated anaphylaxis can first present in this manner, so caution is necessary. In a new study of over 800 young children referred to an allergy clinic with past mild cutaneous reactions to amoxicillin, all children underwent a two-step challenge [9]. Ninety-four percent had no reaction, 2 percent had mild immediate reactions (isolated hives), and 4 percent had mild delayed reactions. Skin testing was later performed on the subset with immediate initial reactions, and only 1 of 17 children had a positive result, indicating that skin testing would not have been useful in identifying these children before challenge. At present, we do not advocate this approach unless there is no alternative antibiotic and allergy referral is not available. However, this study provides valuable information about the pathophysiology of this common type of reaction and may allow for safe rechallenge protocols to be developed in the future for use in the primary care setting. (See "Penicillin allergy: Delayed hypersensitivity reactions", section on 'Children'.)

Olanzapine linked to drug reaction with eosinophilia and systemic symptoms (DRESS) (May 2016)

Drug reaction with eosinophilia and systemic symptoms (DRESS) is a rare, potentially life-threatening, drug-induced hypersensitivity reaction that includes skin eruption, fever, hematologic abnormalities, lymphadenopathy, and internal organ involvement. Antiepileptic agents and allopurinol are the most frequently reported causes. In May 2016 the US Food and Drug Administration issued a warning that the antipsychotic drug olanzapine may cause DRESS, with 23 cases reported worldwide since 1996 [10]. A prolonged latency time (two to eight weeks) between drug exposure and development of symptoms is characteristic of DRESS. Prompt withdrawal of the offending drug and supportive measures are the mainstay of treatment. (See "Drug reaction with eosinophilia and systemic symptoms (DRESS)", section on 'Etiology and risk factors'.)


Extensively heated egg in children with egg allergy (July 2016)

The majority of children with egg allergy can tolerate extensively heated egg, and introduction of cooked egg can both improve quality of life and hasten resolution of egg allergy. A recent study examined whether various cooking methods affected tolerance and whether skin testing with the different cooked forms of the food was predictive of the oral food challenge (OFC) results [11]. Fifty-four children with a history of egg allergy and positive skin testing to raw egg were tested with baked egg in a wheat matrix (cake), egg frittata (fried then baked, no wheat), and boiled egg. They were then challenged to the same forms of egg and pass rates were 88, 74, and 56 percent for baked in wheat matrix, fried/baked, and boiled egg, respectively. The OFC pass rates and higher internal temperatures for the cake and frittata compared with the boiled egg suggest that degree of cooking of the food is more important than the presence of a wheat matrix. Negative skin testing (ie, mean wheal diameters were <3 mm) with a given form of heated egg had a 100 percent negative predictive value for reacting to ingestion of that same form of egg. Although these results suggest that patients could introduce extensively heated egg without first undergoing an oral food challenge (OFC) if skin testing to the cooked form was negative, supervised OFCs are still recommended until these results have been confirmed in more patients, because of the lack of standardization with this type of testing and the risk of anaphylaxis with a failed challenge. (See "Egg allergy: Management", section on 'Extensively heated egg'.)

Failed food challenges and resolution of food allergy (May 2016)

Parents often express concern that a failed oral food challenge (OFC) will prolong their child's food allergy. An observational study examining this question demonstrated that neither food-specific immunoglobulin E (IgE) levels nor skin prick tests changed with either accidental or intentional exposures [12]. The absence of increased sensitization after OFCs that result in an allergic reaction suggests that these exposures will not alter the natural course or resolution of food allergy. (See "Food allergy in children: Prevalence, natural history, and monitoring for resolution", section on 'Role of avoidance'.)

Early introduction of highly allergenic foods in infancy (March 2016)

The Enquiring about Tolerance (EAT) trial examined whether early introduction of six highly allergenic foods (peanut, hen’s egg, cow's milk, sesame, whitefish, and wheat) beginning at three months of age, compared with exclusive breastfeeding until approximately 6 months of age, protected against the development of food allergy in over 1300 breastfed infants recruited from the general population [13]. Early food introduction did not reduce breastfeeding, although caregivers found the feeding regimen to be challenging, with only 43 percent of the participants in the early-introduction group adhering to the protocol. No difference was seen in the prevalence of food allergy at one and three years of age between the two groups in the intention-to-treat (ITT) analysis. However, in the per-protocol analysis, the prevalence of any food allergy, and peanut and egg allergy in particular, was lower in the early-introduction group compared with the standard-introduction group (2.4 versus 7.3 percent, respectively, for any food allergy). Thus, although the more rigorous ITT analysis did not show a benefit of introduction at three months and further research is needed, the results are consistent with our current recommendation to not withhold allergenic foods, and to introduce them as early as 4 to 6 months of age. (See "Introducing highly allergenic foods to infants and children", section on 'Introduction in the general population'.)

Peanut avoidance and loss of peanut tolerance in children (March 2016)

The Learning Early About Peanut allergy (LEAP) trial, in which introduction of peanut to high-risk infants at 4 to 11 months of age led to a decreased risk of peanut allergy by 5 years of age, was the first randomized trial to show benefit of early introduction of a major food allergen. In a follow-up study (LEAP-On), which included 550 of the 640 participants from the primary trial, both groups were asked to avoid peanut for 12 months until the age of 6 years [14]. Peanut allergy continued to be more common in the early peanut avoidance group than in the early peanut consumption group (18.6 versus 4.8 percent, respectively). Three children in the consumption group who were previously tolerant developed peanut allergy during the 12-month avoidance period. Loss of tolerance in children who cease consumption is consistent with data on peanut allergy recurrence in patients who had outgrown their peanut allergy but did not go on to eat it regularly after a successful oral food challenge. (See "Introducing highly allergenic foods to infants and children", section on 'Introduction in a high-risk population'.)

Hypoallergenic formulas to prevent allergic disease in high-risk infants (March 2016)

We currently suggest that high-risk infants who cannot be exclusively breastfed receive a partially hydrolyzed formula (pHF) or extensively hydrolyzed formula (eHF) in preference to a conventional cow’s milk (CM) or soy formula for the purpose of preventing allergic diseases, particularly eczema. However, a 2016 meta-analysis examining the use of conventional and hydrolyzed CM formulas in infants at high risk for developing allergic disease found limited efficacy with regard to prevention of atopic disease [15]. Of note, there were a number of limitations with the available data, including a wide variation in study design and criteria for diagnosis of atopic diseases, as well as publication and methodologic biases. The Australasia Society of Clinical immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) no longer recommends a pHF or eHF over a conventional CM formula. Although we have not yet modified our suggested approach, guidelines in Europe and the United States are in the process of revision and recommendations may be changing in the near future. (See "Introducing formula to infants at risk for allergic disease", section on 'Formula selection for the high-risk infant'.)


Virus-specific T cell infusions for patients with primary immunodeficiencies and hematopoietic cell transplant (June 2016)

Viral infections, particularly with cytomegalovirus, Epstein-Barr virus, and adenovirus, are a leading cause of death in patients with severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) and other forms of moderate-to-severe primary immunodeficiency (PID), both before and after hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT). Investigational infusions of virus-specific T cells (VST) from either stem cell donors or third-party donors have been evaluated to treat and/or prevent these life-threatening viral infections. One retrospective series examined 26 patients with a PID requiring HCT who had at least one documented serious viral infection and were treated with VST either before or after HCT [16]. Complete or partial antiviral response was seen in 76 to 100 percent of patients, depending upon the particular virus. An additional 10 patients were treated preventively with VST prior to HCT. Of these, eight remained free of the most common serious viral infections. This therapy is still experimental, but commercial entities are developing these cellular products and they may be available for more widespread use in a few years. (See "Severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID): An overview", section on 'Treatment'.)


Safety of intranasal triamcinolone for allergic rhinitis in pregnancy (July 2016)

Intranasal glucocorticoid sprays are highly effective for treatment of allergic rhinitis, but concerns remain about their use in pregnancy. The overall safety of intranasal glucocorticoids in pregnancy was supported by an observational cohort study of over 140,000 pregnant women, of whom 2502 were exposed to these medications during the first trimester [17]. Exposure was not associated with increased rates of miscarriage or overall rates of major congenital malformations compared with non-exposure. Triamcinolone was the only intranasal glucocorticoid of potential concern; first trimester use was associated with abnormalities of the respiratory system and choanal atresia. Although these findings are not conclusive, we prefer to use other intranasal glucocorticoids in the first trimester, such as intranasal mometasone, fluticasone, or budesonide, pending further data [18]. (See "Recognition and management of allergic disease during pregnancy", section on 'Glucocorticoid nasal sprays'.)

Restriction of fluoroquinolone use in uncomplicated infections (May 2016)

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has stated that the serious adverse effects associated with fluoroquinolones generally outweigh the benefits for patients with uncomplicated acute sinusitis, acute bronchitis, and urinary tract infections who have other treatment options [19]. For patients with these infections, fluoroquinolones should be reserved for those who have no alternative treatment options. This announcement was based on an FDA safety review showing that systemic fluoroquinolone use is associated with disabling and potentially permanent serious side effects, including those involving the tendons, muscles, joints, nerves, and central nervous system. (See "Fluoroquinolones", section on 'Restriction of use for uncomplicated infections'.)

Anti-IL-4 receptor antibodies for chronic rhinosinusitis with nasal polyposis (February 2016)

Chronic rhinosinusitis with nasal polyposis (CRS with NP) is a disorder that significantly impacts quality of life and often requires sinus surgeries to control. Dupilumab, an investigational monoclonal antibody to the alpha subunit of the interleukin-4 (IL-4) receptor, blocks the signaling of cytokines important in allergic inflammation. In a randomized trial, 51 patients with CRS with NP refractory to glucocorticoid nasal spray were randomized to dupilumab or placebo, while the glucocorticoid spray was continued [20]. By week 16, patients receiving dupilumab, compared with those receiving placebo, showed significant improvement in symptoms and endoscopic nasal polyp scores. Further studies are needed to compare the safety and efficacy of this therapy directly with other treatments, particularly endoscopic sinus surgery. (See "Chronic rhinosinusitis: Management", section on 'Biologic agents for refractory disease'.)


Cholinergic urticaria with anaphylaxis (April 2016)

Cholinergic urticaria is a form of inducible physical urticaria, in which patients develop skin erythema with small 1 to 2 mm hives, characteristically triggered by sudden increases in body temperature. Typical triggers include high heat and humidity, exertion, emotional stress, and hot showers. In most patients, symptoms are limited to the skin, but a few isolated cases have been reported of systemic reactions. In the largest series to date, 19 patients with cholinergic urticaria and anaphylaxis were described [21]. Most were young women whose anaphylaxis episodes were triggered by typical cholinergic triggers, but diagnosis was often delayed by several years because clinicians were seeking other allergic causes to account for the anaphylactic presentation. Clinicians should be aware that cholinergic urticaria can involve systemic symptoms. (See "Physical urticarias", section on 'Cholinergic urticaria'.)

Hereditary vibratory urticaria (February 2016)

Vibratory urticaria is a rare form of physical urticaria in which patients develop urticaria/angioedema in areas of skin that are exposed to vibratory forces, such as the palms after holding the handle of a lawn mower or steering wheel. The disorder can be hereditary or sporadic. In two families with autosomal dominant vibratory urticaria, a gain-of-function mutation in the gene ADGRE2 has been implicated [22]. ADGRE2 encodes a cell surface receptor that is normally inhibitory on mast cells, but the mutated form renders the cell susceptible to degranulation following exposure to vibration. This receptor may be a component of an innate immune response to noxious physical stimuli. (See "Physical urticarias", section on 'Pathogenesis'.)


Midostaurin in systemic mastocytosis (June 2016)

Case reports have described dramatic responses in patients with systemic mastocytosis (SM) treated with the multikinase/KIT inhibitor midostaurin. Two prospective trials of midostaurin have now described responses in 60 to 70 percent of patients with advanced SM [23,24]. Treatment resulted in reversal of organ damage (cytopenias, liver dysfunction) and decreases in bone marrow mast cell burden and serum tryptase levels. Responses were observed regardless of KIT D816V status, prior therapy, or the presence of an associated hematologic neoplasm. Midostaurin is being evaluated by drug regulatory agencies, but is as yet unavailable. (See "Systemic mastocytosis: Treatment and prognosis", section on 'Midostaurin'.)

Water hardness and risk of atopic dermatitis (June 2016)

Epidemiologic evidence has linked high levels of calcium carbonate in domestic water (ie, “hard” water) with increased prevalence of atopic dermatitis in children. A population-based cross-sectional study including 1303 three-month-old infants found that high levels of calcium carbonate, but not of chlorine, in household water were associated with a nearly doubled risk of visible atopic dermatitis compared with low calcium carbonate levels, after adjusting for potential confounders (presence of filaggrin mutation, sex, ethnicity, and maternal age) [25]. However, the results of this study should be interpreted with caution, because residual confounding from unmeasured factors, such as changes in skin care practices associated with presence of eczema or dry skin, cannot be excluded. Further studies are needed to evaluate this association. (See "Pathogenesis, clinical manifestations, and diagnosis of atopic dermatitis (eczema)", section on 'Risk factors'.)

Etiology of community-acquired pneumonia (April 2016)

Multiple studies of patients with community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) have identified an etiologic agent in fewer than half of cases. In a study of hospitalized adults with CAP in the United Kingdom that used both bacterial cultures and comprehensive multiplex molecular testing for bacteria and viruses of lower respiratory tract specimens, a pathogen was identified in 87 percent of cases by molecular methods [26]. Culture-based methods detected a pathogen in only 39 percent of cases. Haemophilus influenzae and Streptococcus pneumoniae were the most common agents detected, followed by a wide variety of pathogens. Viruses were present in 30 percent of cases; 82 percent of these were detected in specimens that also tested positive for bacteria. A caveat is that contamination of specimens with upper respiratory tract secretions could cause false positive results [27]. (See "Epidemiology, pathogenesis, and microbiology of community-acquired pneumonia in adults", section on 'Inpatients'.)

Treatment of unexplained chronic cough with pregabalin (March 2016)

Like gabapentin, pregabalin is thought to act centrally to inhibit neurotransmitter release. Evidence for its use in chronic cough comes from a randomized trial in which 40 adults with chronic refractory cough were assigned to take pregabalin daily or placebo combined with speech pathology treatment for 14 weeks [28]. Baseline cough frequency was 24 coughs/hour in both groups; spirometry was normal. Both groups experienced a reduction in cough severity and cough frequency, and improvements in cough-related quality of life (QOL). The pregabalin group experienced greater improvement in cough severity and QOL. Adverse effects in the pregabalin group included dizziness in 45 percent and cognitive changes in 30 percent, although these did not lead to discontinuation of the study drug. Four weeks after withdrawal of study medication, there was no deterioration in symptom control. To minimize sedation and dizziness, pregabalin is initiated at a low dose and gradually increased as tolerated over a week. Of note, the American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP) guidelines do not include pregabalin because this study was published after the guidelines were prepared. (See "Treatment of subacute and chronic cough in adults", section on 'Gabapentin and pregabalin'.)

Oral fluoroquinolone use and serious arrhythmia (March 2016)

QT interval prolongation and torsades de pointes have been associated with fluoroquinolone use, but the degree to which fluoroquinolones block cardiac potassium channels and thereby cause QT prolongation varies by agent. The risk of serious arrhythmia during fluoroquinolone therapy was evaluated in a cohort of adults aged 40 to 79 years of age in Denmark and Sweden; arrhythmic events were compared for 909,656 courses of fluoroquinolones (ciprofloxacin in 83 percent, norfloxacin in 12 percent, ofloxacin in 3 percent, moxifloxacin in 1 percent, other in 1 percent) and 909,656 courses of penicillin, an antibiotic not associated with arrhythmia [29]. There was no increase in the risk of serious arrhythmia with fluoroquinolones compared with penicillin. This finding conflicts with results from earlier studies, and may be explained in part by the predominant use of ciprofloxacin in this cohort, with its smaller impact on QT prolongation. (See "Fluoroquinolones", section on 'QT interval prolongation and arrhythmia'.)

Abbreviated skin testing protocol for Hymenoptera venom allergy (February 2016)

A small number of publications have described abbreviated protocols for Hymenoptera venom skin testing. The most recent was a retrospective review of 300 patients evaluated for venom allergy in a single practice [30]. Patients with all severities of sting reactions (24 percent had severe anaphylaxis) were included, and all were tested with an identical protocol consisting of a single intradermal dose of a 1 microgram/mL concentration of five separate commercial bee and vespid venom extracts. All patients had at least one positive skin test. There were no generalized immediate reactions to testing, and just one delayed reaction (hours later) consisting of diffuse urticaria. This testing approach appears to be safe, although the total number of patients now reported as having been tested with this and other abbreviated protocols is under 1000, and these findings have not yet been incorporated into practice parameters. For clinicians who wish to begin using an abbreviated venom testing protocol, it may be prudent start with patients who experienced milder sting reactions, while awaiting more definitive data. (See "Diagnosis of Hymenoptera venom allergy", section on 'Technique and interpretation'.)

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