‘Breg/Th17 ratio’ is a laboratory test that measures the quantitative relation between certain immune cells. It could predict which patients will benefit from the treatment. However, the test is not yet routinely performed.
It was previously unclear what happens in the body during specific immunotherapy (previously called hyposensitisation) against hay fever. A research team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and Helmholtz Zentrum München has taken a closer look at the complex interplay between various immune cells. The occurrence of allergies involves the immune system’s T helper cells and B cells. In other words, certain T helper cells stimulate allergic reactions while B cells form antibodies to protect the body from an allergy.
“Our data shows that the immunotherapy processes are more complex than previously assumed”, says Adam Chaker, director of the allergy department of the Clinic and Polyclinic for Throat, Nose and Ear Medicine at the TUM University Rechts der Isar Hospital. “Cell types are involved that have not been given much consideration until now. Specifically, we believe that regulatory B cells play a significantly more important role than previously thought.”
The Munich research team treated 32 hay fever patients with specific immunotherapy and observed their immune systems during the three-year treatment period. People who had a particularly high level of regulatory B cells and few T helper cells after the first treatment phase experienced significantly fewer allergy symptoms after the three-year treatment period.
“We have patented this test”, says Chaker. “Once it is ready for rollout, we will be able to spare patients with low chances of success a time-consuming treatment. If the results are positive, this kind of test can provide sound arguments to go through with a three-year treatment. Until now, many people have been stopping treatment prematurely.”