Clinical evidence suggests that acupuncture improves symptoms in persistent allergic rhinitis, but the physiologic basis of these improvements is not well understood.
A randomized, sham-controlled trial of acupuncture for persistent allergic rhinitis in adults investigated possible modulation of mucosal immune responses.
A total of 151 individuals were randomized into real and sham acupuncture groups (who received twice-weekly treatments for 8 weeks) and a no acupuncture group. Various cytokines, neurotrophins, proinflammatory neuropeptides, and immunoglobulins were measured in saliva or plasma from baseline to 4-week follow-up.
Statistically significant reduction in allergen specific IgE for house dust mite was seen only in the real acupuncture group, from 18.87 kU/L (95% CI, 10.16–27.58 kU/L) to 17.82 kU/L (95% CI, 9.81–25.83 kU/L) (P = .04). A mean (SE) statistically significant down-regulation was also seen in proinflammatory neuropeptide substance P (SP) 18 to 24 hours after the first treatment from 408.74 (299.12) pg/mL to 90.77 (22.54) pg/mL (P = .04). No significant changes were seen in the other neuropeptides, neurotrophins, or cytokines tested. Nasal obstruction, nasal itch, sneezing, runny nose, eye itch, and unrefreshed sleep improved significantly in the real acupuncture group (postnasal drip and sinus pain did not) and continued to improve up to 4-week follow-up.
Acupuncture modulated mucosal immune response in the upper airway in adults with persistent allergic rhinitis. This modulation appears to be associated with down-regulation of allergen specific IgE for house dust mite, which this study is the first to report. Improvements in nasal itch, eye itch, and sneezing after acupuncture are suggestive of down-regulation of transient receptor potential vanilloid 1.
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