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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 2017. | This topic last updated: Aug 14, 2017.

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.


Mepolizumab for eosinophilic granulomatosis with polyangiitis (August 2017)

Mepolizumab is a monoclonal anti-interleukin-5 antibody that is approved for use in severe eosinophilic asthma. In a multicenter trial, 136 patients with relapsing or refractory eosinophilic granulomatosis with polyangiitis (EGPA) were randomly assigned to receive mepolizumab 300 mg (three times the US Food and Drug Administration-approved dose of 100 mg) or placebo subcutaneously every four weeks for 52 weeks [1]. Mepolizumab led to significantly more accrued weeks of remission and a lower frequency of relapse than placebo. Among mepolizumab-treated subjects, 44 percent were able to taper prednisolone to ≤4 mg/day, compared with 7 percent on placebo. While not all patients respond, high-dose mepolizumab may be an additional option for selected patients with EGPA. (See "Treatment and prognosis of eosinophilic granulomatosis with polyangiitis (Churg-Strauss)", section on 'Anti-IL-5 antibodies'.)

Benralizumab and glucocorticoid-sparing effect in severe asthma (June 2017)

Benralizumab, an investigational anti-IL-5 receptor alpha antibody, appears to have a glucocorticoid-sparing effect in patients requiring oral glucocorticoids to control severe asthma. In a multicenter trial, 220 patients who had ≥150 eosinophils/mL in peripheral blood AND required daily oral glucocorticoids for the previous six months were randomly assigned to one of two benralizumab treatment arms or placebo [2]. The oral glucocorticoid dose was reduced according to a predetermined program (2.5 to 5 mg every four weeks). After 28 weeks, the oral glucocorticoid dose decreased by 75 percent from baseline in the two benralizumab groups, compared with 25 percent in the placebo group. Exacerbation rates were lower in the benralizumab groups despite glucocorticoid tapering, and pulmonary function remained stable. (See "Investigational agents for asthma", section on 'Anti-IL-5 receptor alpha antibodies'.)

Updated guidelines for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (March 2017)

The Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) has published updated guidelines that focus on a combined assessment of an individual's symptoms and exacerbation history to guide therapy [3]. Symptoms are assessed using standardized instruments, such as the COPD Assessment Tool (CAT) or the modified Medical Research Council (mMRC) dyspnea scale. Future exacerbation risk is based on the number of exacerbations and hospitalizations for exacerbations in the previous 12 months. (See "Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: Definition, clinical manifestations, diagnosis, and staging", section on 'GOLD system'.)

Maternal fish oil supplementation and asthma in offspring (February 2017)

Maternal supplementation with fish oil, which consists of two n-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (docosahexaenoic acid [DHA]) and eicosapentaenoic acid [EPA]), has been proposed to improve a variety of pregnancy outcomes. In a placebo-controlled randomized trial of third-trimester maternal supplementation with fish oil 2.4 grams daily (55 percent EPA and 37 percent DHA), supplementation resulted in a 7 percent reduction in the absolute risk of persistent wheeze or asthma in offspring followed to age three to five years [4]. Because of limitations in the design of this trial, UpToDate does not advise routine supplementation with this dose of fish oil, but continues to recommend that all pregnant women achieve DHA intake of at least 200 to 300 mg/day. (See "Fish consumption and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) supplementation in pregnancy".)

Spirometry and asthma diagnosis (February 2017)

The importance of confirming reversible airflow limitation when making a diagnosis of asthma was illustrated in a study of 701 randomly selected adults who had a physician diagnosis of asthma in the previous five years [5]. Current asthma was excluded in 33 percent and, among these, less than half had previous testing to confirm airflow limitation. This observation suggests that a clinical diagnosis of asthma, if not supported by spirometry, may be incorrect and reinforces guideline recommendations that spirometry pre- and post-bronchodilator be obtained at the time of an initial diagnosis of asthma.

(See "Diagnosis of asthma in adolescents and adults", section on 'Diagnosis'.)


Rapid aspirin desensitization in patients with acute coronary syndrome (April 2017)

There are well-established protocols for elective desensitization to aspirin, but fewer studies of approaches in patients needing urgent treatment. In a multicenter observational study of 330 consecutive patients with acute coronary syndrome and past hypersensitivity reactions to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), 95 percent were successfully desensitized to low-dose aspirin using a protocol that could be completed within six hours [6]. The procedure was aborted in 5 percent because symptoms developed during the protocol. While useful, we prefer our own approach because it does not exclude patients who react during the protocol. (See "Diagnostic challenge and desensitization protocols for NSAID reactions", section on 'Our approach'.)


Introducing solids in infants with milk or soy FPIES (June 2017)

Food protein-induced enterocolitis syndrome (FPIES) is a nonimmunoglobulin E (IgE)-mediated gastrointestinal food hypersensitivity most commonly caused by cow's milk (CM) or soy protein. Recent international consensus guidelines from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology and the International FPIES Association advocacy group provide guidance on the introduction of solid foods in infants with CM or soy FPIES (table 1) [7]. In accordance with these guidelines, for infants with CM or soy FPIES, we suggest introduction of vegetables and then fruits, rather than cereals, at four to six months of age, to reduce the risk of reactions to rice and other grains that may occur among infants with CM or soy FPIES. (See "Food protein-induced enterocolitis syndrome (FPIES)", section on 'Introduction of new foods'.)

New guidelines for management of peanut and tree nut allergies (June 2017)

The most straightforward approach in managing any food allergy is complete avoidance of the culprit food and all similar foods, particularly for peanut and tree nuts. However, some patients may find this approach too burdensome. Reflecting a shift in clinical practice, the recent British Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology guidelines permit, with certain restrictions, consumption of similar foods after confirming that they are safe, if the patient and family prefer this approach [8]. This guideline for the management of peanut and tree nut allergy is consistent with our approach. (See "Peanut, tree nut, and seed allergy: Management", section on 'Clinical scenarios'.)

FPIES resolution and timing of challenges (March 2017)

An oral food challenge is used to determine whether food protein-induced enterocolitis syndrome (FPIES) has resolved before the food is reintroduced into the diet; however, optimal timing of challenges is uncertain. Studies have shown that resolution of FPIES is impacted by various factors including the type of food (cow's milk/soy versus a solid food), presence of concomitant immunoglobulin E (IgE) sensitization to the food, age at presentation and diagnosis, and the country/population [9,10]. While further studies are needed to determine the optimal timing of challenges, considering these factors may result in earlier successful reintroduction in some children and avoidance of failed reintroduction in others. (See "Food protein-induced enterocolitis syndrome (FPIES)", section on 'Solid-food FPIES natural history'.)


Ustekinumab in leukocyte adhesion deficiency type I (March 2017)

Leukocyte adhesion deficiency type I (LAD I) is a primary immunodeficiency in which neutrophils cannot leave the vasculature to migrate into tissues under conditions of inflammation or infection. The simple absence of neutrophil killing was assumed to be responsible for the chronic skin and mucosal infections and ulcers seen in this disorder, but a case report described dramatic clinical improvement with ustekinumab, an agent known to downregulate inflammation [11]. The observation that ustekinumab resulted in healing of chronic skin and mucosal lesions, rather than uncontrolled bacterial spread, suggests that a hyperinflammatory process is the primary reason for lack of healing. However, unchecked infection is a theoretical concern in more severe forms of LAD I, and longer-term studies are needed before the routine use of ustekinumab can be recommended. (See "Leukocyte-adhesion deficiency", section on 'Ustekinumab'.)


Sublingual immunotherapy tablet for house dust mite allergy (April 2017)

A house dust mite (HDM) sublingual immunotherapy tablet was approved in the United States by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treatment of HDM-induced allergic rhinitis with or without conjunctivitis (AR/C) in adults (ages 18 to 65) [12]. HDM tablet immunotherapy is available in Europe, Australia, and Asia. Approval was based on several studies, including a recent randomized trial of over 1400 subjects with HDM-induced AR/C with or without asthma, who received HDM tablets or placebo daily for 52 weeks [13]. The total combined rhinitis score improved by 17 percent compared with placebo, with no serious treatment-related adverse events. Treatment is given daily for at least one year. Further study is needed to define the optimal duration of therapy and to what extent the effect persists after therapy is stopped. (See "Sublingual immunotherapy for allergic rhinoconjunctivitis and asthma", section on 'Availability'.)


New mutation in hereditary angioedema with normal C1 inhibitor (July 2017)

Most patients with hereditary angioedema have deficiency or dysfunction of C1 inhibitor, but a subset have no identifiable complement abnormalities. Within this subgroup, mutations in the gene for factor XII account for the disease in some families, while pathogenesis in the remainder has been unexplained. Now, a mutation has been identified in the gene encoding angiopoietin-1 (ANGPT1), a glycoprotein that inhibits bradykinin-induced plasma leakage, in one Italian family [14]. The mutation was present in four symptomatic women and absent in seven asymptomatic relatives. Understanding of the genetic basis of this disease is gradually expanding, and other mutations potentially leading to the hereditary angioedema phenotype will likely be found over time. (See "Hereditary angioedema with normal C1 inhibitor", section on 'Other mutations'.)

Systemic symptoms in patients with chronic idiopathic urticaria (June 2017)

Patients with chronic idiopathic urticaria (CIU) sometimes report accompanying systemic symptoms, although the prevalence of such symptoms has not been specifically examined. In a study of 155 CIU patients presenting to a referral allergy clinic, 66 percent reported systemic symptoms, including headache, fatigue, joint pain or swelling, wheezing, flushing, gastrointestinal symptoms, and palpitations [15]. Patients with systemic symptoms had a greater disease burden compared with those without symptoms. Although this study population was probably skewed towards more severe disease, it is helpful to recognize that systemic symptoms are not uncommon in CIU. (See "Chronic urticaria: Clinical manifestations, diagnosis, pathogenesis, and natural history", section on 'Systemic symptoms'.)

Subcutaneous C1 inhibitor for hereditary angioedema (April 2017, Modified June 2017)

Patients with hereditary angioedema (C1 inhibitor deficiency) develop attacks of angioedema affecting the skin, gastrointestinal tract, and airway, which can be prevented with intravenous infusions of C1 inhibitor, typically given twice weekly. Subcutaneous administration should significantly facilitate self-treatment. In a randomized multicenter trial of 90 children and adults, participants injected a subcutaneous formulation of C1 inhibitor or placebo twice weekly for 16 weeks [16]. Therapy was well tolerated and participants receiving active drug had fewer attacks per month (mean 0.5 versus 4.0 attacks). This formulation was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in June 2017, and approval in Europe is anticipated in the near future. However, it is not yet available for clinical use. (See "Hereditary angioedema: General care and long-term prophylaxis", section on 'Subcutaneous C1 inhibitor'.)

Glucocorticoids not necessary for simple acute urticaria (May 2017)

Although patients with urticaria and symptoms involving other organ systems are treated with epinephrine given the likelihood of anaphylaxis, H1 antihistamines are the initial treatment for those with isolated urticaria. For such patients, the additive benefit of glucocorticoids is not well defined. In a randomized trial of 100 adults presenting to the emergency department with isolated urticaria (without angioedema, anaphylaxis, or fever) of ≤24 hours duration, patients received the H1 antihistamine levocetirizine plus either prednisone or placebo for four days [17]. There was no significant difference in the rate of symptom resolution, and most patients were symptom-free within two days. This study supports our suggestion to reserve glucocorticoids for those patients with new urticaria who have prominent angioedema or whose symptoms persist despite antihistamines. (See "New-onset urticaria", section on 'Glucocorticoids'.)


High-dose influenza vaccine in older adults (March 2017)

For influenza vaccination of adults ≥65 years of age, we recommend the high-dose inactivated influenza vaccine, which has previously been shown to be more immunogenic and modestly more effective at preventing influenza infection than the standard-dose vaccine. In a study of United States Medicare beneficiaries ≥65 years of age, the high-dose vaccine was more effective than the standard-dose vaccine for preventing postinfluenza death during the 2012-2013 influenza season, a season when circulation of H3N2 influenza A (a strain associated with severe disease) was common [18]. In contrast, it was not more effective for preventing postinfluenza death during the following season, when H1N1 influenza A (a strain associated with mild disease) predominated. This difference was likely due to the difficulty in demonstrating benefit during a mild influenza season, when death is a rare outcome. The high-dose vaccine was associated with a reduced risk of hospitalization during both seasons. (See "Seasonal influenza vaccination in adults", section on 'High-dose vaccine'.)


Countering the high cost of epinephrine autoinjectors (June 2017)

Physicians and patients in the United States have been struggling with the high cost of epinephrine autoinjectors, and alternatives, as well as ways to maximize the utility of expensive devices, have begun to appear:

A prefilled syringe (Symjepi) containing 0.3 mg epinephrine per dose was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in June 2017 and should offer a more affordable alternative to autoinjectors [19]. It will be available in upcoming months in just one dose, labeled for use in patients weighing ≥30 kg (66 lbs). (See "Prescribing epinephrine for anaphylaxis self-treatment", section on 'Prefilled syringes'.)

A study of 31 expired autoinjectors (EpiPens) found that devices as much as four years past the expiration date still contained 84 to 88 percent of the intended epinephrine dose [20]. Thus, patients should understand that expired devices retain most of their potency and that if anaphylaxis develops, using an outdated device is preferable to not injecting epinephrine at all. (See "Prescribing epinephrine for anaphylaxis self-treatment", section on 'Use of expired autoinjectors'.)

Dupilumab for moderate to severe atopic dermatitis (April 2017)

Dupilumab is an interleukin-4 receptor alpha antagonist being evaluated in atopic dermatitis. In two 16-week clinical trials (SOLO1 and SOLO2), dupilumab was more effective than placebo in improving the signs and symptoms of atopic dermatitis [21]. Based on these results, the US Food and Drug Administration has approved dupilumab for the treatment of adult patients with moderate to severe atopic dermatitis not adequately controlled with topical prescription therapies [22]. While the role for dupilumab is still evolving, it appears to be a reasonable option for adult patients with severe disease who have failed other systemic therapies. (See "Treatment of atopic dermatitis (eczema)", section on 'Dupilumab'.)

Nemolizumab for atopic dermatitis (March 2017)

Some patients with atopic dermatitis do not experience disease control with topical treatments. In a phase 2 trial, 264 patients with moderate to severe atopic dermatitis not controlled by topical corticosteroids or topical calcineurin inhibitors were randomly assigned to monthly subcutaneous nemolizumab, an investigational humanized monoclonal antibody against interleukin-31, at three different doses or to placebo [23]. At 12 weeks, pruritus was reduced by 44, 60, and 63 percent, in the low, medium, and high dose groups, respectively, versus 21 percent in the placebo group. However, nemolizumab did not reduce the body surface area affected by atopic dermatitis. Adverse effects occurred in approximately 70 percent of patients in all study groups and were generally mild, with the most frequent being exacerbation of atopic dermatitis and respiratory tract infections. Although nemolizumab appears to be a promising treatment for pruritus associated with atopic dermatitis, larger studies of longer durations are needed to confirm its efficacy and safety. (See "Treatment of atopic dermatitis (eczema)", section on 'Nemolizumab'.)

Immunotherapy for stinging insect hypersensitivity in adults (February 2017)

Venom immunotherapy (VIT) for the treatment of patients with anaphylactic reactions to stings of Hymenoptera insects (eg, bees, yellow jackets, wasps, hornets, and fire ants) is highly effective in preventing future anaphylactic reactions. However, in an updated practice parameter from the American Joint Task Force, VIT is no longer suggested for adults with systemic reactions limited to the skin (ie, generalized erythema, pruritus, urticaria, or angioedema) as studies suggest these patients are at low risk for serious future systemic reactions [24]. This change brings the American approach into closer alignment with guidelines of other countries and is similar to the existing recommendation for children. Despite this revision, VIT may be appropriate for certain adults with cutaneous systemic reactions (eg, those with underlying medical conditions or medications that could affect the outcome of a systemic reaction, frequent unavoidable exposure to Hymenoptera, or impaired quality of life due to fear of future stings). (See "Hymenoptera venom immunotherapy: Efficacy, indications, and mechanism of action", section on 'Patients with past cutaneous systemic reactions'.)

Differences in anaphylaxis treatment by age (February 2017)

Epinephrine given by intramuscular (IM) injection is the treatment of choice for anaphylaxis, but clinicians are sometimes reluctant to administer it, particularly to older adults. In a retrospective study of nearly 500 children and adults with anaphylaxis presenting to the emergency department, patients >50 years of age were less likely to receive epinephrine (36 versus 61 percent) compared with younger patients [25]. In addition, among patients who were given epinephrine, older adults were more likely to receive excessive doses when epinephrine was administered intravenously (IV). IM epinephrine was well-tolerated by patients of all ages, while IV administration was associated with a higher rate of cardiovascular complications. These findings support our recommendations to administer epinephrine by IM injection whenever possible and reserve IV administration for refractory cases. (See "Anaphylaxis: Emergency treatment", section on 'Situations requiring caution'.)

Masitinib in indolent and smoldering systemic mastocytosis (February 2017)

There are limited treatment options for indolent and smoldering systemic mastocytosis (ISM and SSM, respectively). Masitinib is a tyrosine kinase with activity against at least three mast cell signaling molecules. In a phase III trial of 135 severely symptomatic patients with ISM or SSM, oral masitinib reduced symptoms, tryptase levels, and urticaria pigmentosa lesions compared with placebo, although it was associated with side effects requiring discontinuation in 24 percent [26]. The drug is under regulatory review, and further data about the safety and efficacy are needed before its use can be recommended. (See "Systemic mastocytosis: Management and prognosis", section on 'Clinical trials'.)

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  12. Prescribing information is available on the US FDA website. (Accessed on March 08, 2017).
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  14. Bafunno V, Firinu D, D'Apolito M, et al. Mutation of the angiopoietin-1 gene (ANGPT1) associates with a new type of hereditary angioedema. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2017.
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