What is the protocol for immunotherapy to treat 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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In initial studies, only immunotherapy for positive fungal antigens was administered for the first 6 months to be certain that any effects (either positive or negative) on the disease process were caused by the administration of fungal antigens. Later, both fungal and nonfungal antigens to which the patient was found to be allergic were included in the treatment mix. However, administering these in 2 separate vials for the first several months of treatment remains advisable to more easily assess the source of any untoward local reaction and to more efficiently advance treatment dosage. After maintenance levels are achieved, the fungal and nonfungal antigens may be combined into one vial.

A common misconception is that only immunotherapy for those fungi identified by culture from allergic fungal mucin should be included in the testing/treatment regimen for a patient. Because of variability in mycology laboratories and circumstances, a positive culture is not obtained for all patients. Conversely, the presence of fungi on culture of sinus contents does not confirm the diagnosis of allergic fungal sinusitis (AFS). One successful approach has been to test for a wide variety of molds (the choice being dictated by experience gained in testing and treating allergy patients in the region) and to include all positive reactors in the treatment set.

Advancement and adjustment of dosage are performed in the usual fashion. Although late local reactions (induration of >30 mm in diameter occurring 24-48 h after an injection) are said to be more common when administering immunotherapy for molds than for other antigens, this has not been the reported experience in treating patients with allergic fungal sinusitis (AFS). Systemic reactions to immunotherapy likewise have not been observed in the UT Southwestern experience.

On the basis of experience, administration of immunotherapy to patients with allergic fungal sinusitis (AFS) is currently recommended for the same duration as that recommended for patients with allergies in general, ie, 3-5 years. Mabry and Marple's protocol at UT Southwestern is listed in Table 4 below. The antigens for which they test and treat are listed in Table 5 below.

Table 4. Protocol for Immunotherapy in Allergic Fungal Sinusitis (Open Table in a new window)


1. After successful surgical exenteration of sinuses and confirmation of diagnosis, perform allergy evaluation and testing (RAST or quantitative skin test) for typical panel of nonfungal antigens appropriate for the area. Test (RAST or quantitative skin test) for all relevant molds (fungi) available. Discuss treatment protocol with the patient and obtain informed consent.

2. Instruct the patient in avoidance measures for molds. Adjust pharmacotherapy as necessary.

3. Prepare a vial of all positive nonfungal antigens and a second vial of all positive fungal antigens. Perform a vial test with each.

4. Administer immunotherapy weekly, with dosage advancement as tolerated, placing 1 injection from each vial in a different arm. This allows for accurate recognition of the cause of any local reactions noted.

5. Observe the patient regularly and adjust dosage as necessary if local reactions or adverse changes in nasal signs/symptoms occur. Regularly examine the patient with endoscopy to detect reaccumulation of allergic mucin or reformation of polyps and to ensure that cleaning, medical management, etc, are carried out.

6. As dosage advancement permits (generally by second vial), antigens may be combined into 1 vial; continue for a 3- to 5-year regimen according to standard practice.

Reproduced from Mabry RL, 1998.

Table 5. Antigens From Fungal Genera in Current Testing and Treatment Protocol at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas (Open Table in a new window)

Antigens From Fungal Genera in Approximate Relative Order of Local (Dallas, TX) Importance












Reproduced from Mabry RL, 1998.

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