What is the role of immunotherapy in the treatment of allergic fungal sinusitis (AFS)?

Updated: Apr 13, 2020
  • Author: John E McClay, MD; Chief Editor: Arlen D Meyers, MD, MBA  more...
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The similarity between allergic fungal sinusitis (AFS) and ABPA led to an empiric and theoretical concern that immunotherapy using specific fungal antigens in patients with either of these diseases might incite further allergic reactions by adding to the patient fungal antigenic stimulus. This concern specifically addressed the possible exacerbation of immune complex development and deposition. However, in allergic fungal sinusitis (AFS), surgery is able to remove the inciting fungal load from the paranasal sinuses. Therefore, it recently was postulated that immunotherapy may be beneficial, rather than harmful, as a component of treatment for allergic fungal sinusitis (AFS).

To investigate the safety of fungal immunotherapy as an adjunct to allergic fungal sinusitis (AFS) treatment, a prospective study was performed to examine the response of patients with allergic fungal sinusitis (following adequate surgery) to immunotherapy with all fungal and nonfungal antigens to which the patients were sensitive. In the first year of this study, clinical status was not shown to worsen, patients did not require systemic corticosteroids, most patients were able to discontinue topical corticosteroid therapy, and allergic fungal sinusitis (AFS) recurrence was markedly diminished among patients compliant with the regimen. The follow-up study revealed similar findings at 2 and 3 years.

A complementary study retrospectively compared 11 patients treated in this manner with 11 age- and diseased-matched control subjects who received the same surgical and medical treatment but no immunotherapy. A statistically significant difference was noted between the 2 groups. The cohort receiving immunotherapy as part of their treatment performed better in quality-of-life scores and objective endoscopic measures of mucosal edema.

In a series of 8 patients in whom immunotherapy was given for 3-5 years and then discontinued, no recurrences were seen up to 17 months after discontinuation. Additional study is necessary, but initial work suggests that a role may exist for immunotherapy in the overall treatment strategy for allergic fungal sinusitis (AFS).

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