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Stinging insect allergy: current perspectives on venom immunotherapy

Authors Ludman S, Boyle R

Received 11 March 2015

Accepted for publication 29 April 2015

Published 23 July 2015 Volume 2015:8 Pages 75—86

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/JAA.S62288

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Dr Amrita Dosanjh


Sian W Ludman,1 Robert J Boyle2

1Paediatric Allergy Department, St Mary's Hospital, Imperial Healthcare NHS Trust, London, UK; 2Department of Paediatrics, Imperial College London, London, UK

Abstract: Systemic allergic reactions to insect stings affect up to 5% of the population during their lifetime, and up to 32% of beekeepers. Such reactions can be fatal, albeit very rarely, and fear of a further systemic reaction (SR) can lead to significant anxiety and quality of life impairment. A recent Cochrane systematic review confirmed that venom immunotherapy (VIT) is an effective treatment for people who have had a systemic allergic reaction to an insect sting. VIT reduces risk of a further SR (relative risk 0.10, 95% confidence interval 0.03–0.28), but VIT also reduces risk of a future large local reaction, and significantly improves disease-specific quality of life. However, health economic analysis showed that VIT is generally not cost effective for preventing future SRs; most people are stung infrequently, most SRs resolve without long-term consequences, and a fatal outcome is extremely rare. VIT only becomes cost effective if one is stung frequently (eg, beekeepers) or if quality of life improvement is considered. Thus, for most people with insect sting allergy, anxiety and quality of life impairment should be the overriding consideration when making treatment decisions, highlighting the importance of a patient-centered approach. Areas which need to be explored in future research include efforts to improve the safety and convenience of VIT such as the use of sublingual immunotherapy; quality of life effects of venom allergy in children and adolescents as well as their parents; and the optimal duration of treatment.

Keywords: anaphylaxis, quality of life

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