Allergen Immunotherapy Enhances Airway Epithelial Antiviral Immunity in Patients with Allergic Asthma (VITAL Study): A Double Blind Randomized Controlled Trial

Christian Woehlk, Sangeetha Ramu, Asger Sverrild, Juan José Nieto-Fontarigo, Sara Vázquez-Mera, Samuel Cerps, Alexis Pulga, Louise Munkholm Andreasson, Lise Lotte Eriksen, Nanna Dyhre-Petersen, Mandy Menzel, Ditte K Klein, Susanne Hansen, Lena Uller, Celeste Porsbjerg


Rationale: Allergic asthma is linked to impaired bronchial epithelial secretion of IFNs, which may be causally linked to the increased risk of viral exacerbations. We have previously shown that allergen immunotherapy (AIT) effectively reduces asthma exacerbations and prevents respiratory infections requiring antibiotics; however, whether AIT alters antiviral immunity is still unknown. Objectives: To investigate the effect of house dust mite sublingual AIT (HDM-SLIT) on bronchial epithelial antiviral and inflammatory responses in patients with allergic asthma. Methods: In this double-blind, randomized controlled trial (VITAL [The Effect of Allergen Immunotherapy on Anti-viral Immunity in Patients with Allergic Asthma]), adult patients with HDM allergic asthma received HDM-SLIT 12-SQ or placebo for 24 weeks. Bronchoscopy was performed at baseline and at Week 24, which included sampling for human bronchial epithelial cells. Human bronchial epithelial cells were cultured at baseline and at Week 24 and stimulated with the viral mimic polyinosinic:polycytidylic acid (poly(I:C)). mRNA expression was quantified using qRT-PCR, and protein concentrations were measured using multiplex ELISA. Measurements and Main Results: Thirty-nine patients were randomized to HDM-SLIT (n = 20) or placebo (n = 19). HDM-SLIT resulted in increased polyinosinic:polycytidylic acid-induced expression of IFN-β at both the gene (P = 0.009) and protein (P = 0.02) levels. IFN-λ gene expression was also increased (P = 0.03), whereas IL-33 tended to be decreased (P = 0.09). On the other hand, proinflammatory cytokines IL-6 (P = 0.009) and TNF-α (tumor necrosis factor-α) (P = 0.08) increased compared with baseline in the HDM-SLIT group. There were no significant changes in TSLP (thymic stromal lymphopoietin), IL-4, IL-13, and IL-10. Conclusions: HDM-SLIT improves bronchial epithelial antiviral resistance to viral infection. These results potentially explain the efficacy of HDM-SLIT in reducing exacerbations in allergic asthma. Clinical trial registered with (NCT04100902).

Original languageEnglish
JournalAmerican Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine
Issue number9
Pages (from-to)1161-1170
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2023


  • Adult
  • Allergens
  • Animals
  • Antigens, Dermatophagoides
  • Antiviral Agents/therapeutic use
  • Asthma/drug therapy
  • Desensitization, Immunologic/methods
  • Humans
  • Poly C/therapeutic use
  • Pyroglyphidae
  • Rhinitis, Allergic/drug therapy
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha


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