Background: Cytotoxic T lymphocyte associated antigen-4 (CTLA-4) is involved in the activation pathways of T lymphocytes. It has been shown that the circulating form of CTLA-4 is elevated in patients with hymenoptera allergy and can be down regulated by immunotherapy. Objective: to assess the effects on CTLA-4 of venom immunotherapy, given with different induction protocols: conventional (6 weeks), rush (3 days) or ultra rush (1 day). Methods: Sera from patients with hymenoptera allergy were collected at baseline and at the end of the induction phase. CTLA-4 and IL-10 were assayed in the same samples. A subset of patients were assayed also after 12 months of VIT maintenance. Results: Ninety-four patients were studied. Of them, 50 underwent the conventional induction, 20 the rush and 24 the ultra-rush. Soluble CTLA-4 was detectable in all patients at baseline, and significantly decreased at the end of the induction, irrespective of its duration. Of note, a significant decrease of sCTLA-4 could be seen already at 24 hours. In parallel, IL-10 significantly increased at the end of the induction. At 12 months, sCTLA-4 remained low, whereas IL-10 returned to the baseline values. Conclusions: Serum CTLA4 is an early marker of the immunological effects of venom immunotherapy, and its changes persist after one year of maintenance treatment.
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