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Autologous Serum Therapy - a Newer Approach in Management of Chronic Urticaria

Written by
Dr. Suvash Sahu
and medically reviewed by iCliniq medical review team.

Published on Feb 22, 2017 and last reviewed on Dec 20, 2022   -  5 min read

Abstract

Here, I have discussed the mechanism of action and procedure details of autologous serum therapy, a newer and promising therapy for managing chronic urticaria.

Autologous Serum Therapy - a Newer Approach in Management of Chronic Urticaria

What Is Urticaria?

  • Urticaria is also called hives. These hives can change in size and shape and appear anywhere on the skin.

  • They are usually mild or severe and can last from a few minutes to a few days.

  • Hives can also be a sign of a serious allergic reaction called anaphylaxis that requires immediate treatment.

  • Urticaria that lasts more than six weeks is considered to be a chronic condition that needs long-term treatment.

What Can Be The Signs and Symptoms of Urticaria?

The Signs and symptoms of urticaria may include:

  • Pruritis or burning sensation.

  • Angioedema.

  • Fever.

  • Weight loss.

  • Joint pain.

  • Abdominal pain.

What Are The Types Of Urticaria?

The types of urticaria can be:

  • Ordinary urticaria.

  • Acute urticaria.

  • Chronic urticaria.

  • Physical urticaria.

  • Urticarial vasculitis.

What Causes Urticaria?

Hives are usually caused due to an immune system reaction. Few causes can be:

  • Bug bites.

  • Pets, plants, or latex.

  • Food dyes, additives, or preservatives.

  • Allergy to foods like nuts, eggs, or shellfish.

  • Allergy to medications like Ibuprofen or antibiotics.

  • Infections, such as a cold or infectious mononucleosis.

  • Stress.

What Is Chronic Urticaria?

Chronic urticaria (CU), also called hives, is a disturbing allergic condition of the skin. It occurs as red, itchy welts as a result of a skin reaction. The causes of CU are many like physical, psychological, infective, vasculitic, and idiopathic. It is a transient weal that comes and goes in 6 weeks. The welts vary in size, appear and frequently fade as the reaction runs its course. If the welts are present in the skin for more than 6 weeks and frequently recur over months or years, they are considered chronic hives. It can be very painful and may interfere with sleep and daily activities. Even though it often occurs as a benign condition, it may sometimes be a red flag sign of severe internal disease.

What Are The Aggravating Factors For Chronic Urticaria?

Several aggravating factors can cause chronic urticaria. But still, it can be avoided by simple measures. The physician will identify the aggravating factors with careful history taking. Such triggers factors include,

  • Diet, alcohol, drugs, viral infections, local heat and friction, and mental stress.

  • Pseudoallergens may be an important cause in some patients. Pseudoallergic reactions to some additives, natural salicylates, and aromatic compounds are almost certainly dose-related because we do not know how much is to be ingested to precipitate an attack.

  • Aspirin is the most familiar drug to aggravate urticaria.

  • NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).

  • Overheating and local pressure of belts and clothing.

  • Alcohol or caffeine.

  • Emotional stress.

  • Warm temperature.

What Are The Methods To Manage Chronic Urticaria?

There is no standard method for the treatment of chronic urticaria. The options include:

  • Omalizumab.

  • Anti-inflammatory.

  • Immunosuppressants.

The treatment for chronic urticaria includes taking first generation antihistamines at a maximal dose before restoring to corticosteroids or Cyclosporine. However, corticosteroids and Cyclosporine have their own disadvantages. In order to avoid the various side effects of steroids and the expensiveness of Cyclosporine, there is a cost-effective method with no side effects known as autologous serum therapy. In this therapy, we inject the patient's blood repeatedly at weekly intervals to treat chronic urticaria or use whole blood as a part of treatment.

This therapy is very effective in the treatment of chronic urticaria. This procedure is also widely used to treat various diseases like atopic dermatitis, allergies, chronic inflammation, vascular diseases, osteoarthritis, and various other skin diseases.

What Is Autologous Serum Therapy?

The autologousserum therapy (AST) is a promising treatment for many autoimmune diseases, like chronic urticaria. In the process of AST, the patient's blood is first collected and then centrifuged to produce a serum which is then injected intramuscularly every fortnight for eight weeks.

Mechanism of Action:

AST - Autologous serum therapy works on the principle of inducing desensitization or tolerization to pro-inflammatory signals expressed in the patient's circulation.

Instruments to Be Used in the Procedure:

  1. Centrifuge digital machine.

  2. Syringe and needle.

  3. Vacutainers with 21 gauge needles.

  4. ASST (autologous serum skin test).

What Is ASST?

Autologous serum skin testing (ASST) is an investigative test done for autoimmune urticaria, a type of chronic urticaria. It is undertaken in specialist centers for some patients with chronic urticaria. Normal immunoglobulin-E antibodies (IgE) activate IgE receptors (FceRI) on mast cells and basophils.

The autologous serum skin test (ASST) is an in vivo test used to assess autoreactivity. This test involves the intradermal injection of autologous serum into the body. Antihistamines should be stopped at least 2 to 3 days before the test.

Procedure:

In this therapy doctor always takes your written informed consent, and he will collect your blood in a red top vacutainer. Then, he centrifuges (spins) your blood at 3000 revolutions per minute for 10 minutes to separate serum. The freshly prepared serum will be separated in a 5 cc syringe. He will inject 2.5 mL of serum deep intramuscularly in gluteal muscles with the help of a 22 gauge needle at a weekly interval for 9 weeks. Later, it can be given fortnightly for maintenance therapy.

This therapy is gaining popularity because of its cost-effectiveness and not involving various expensive drugs like biologics such as Omalizumab and Cyclosporine.

Conclusion:

In patients with chronic urticaria, autologous serum therapy is a useful adjunct that decreases the pill burden and enhances the quality of life. The effect of nine weekly injections of autologous serum was found to be effective even four months after cessation of therapy. Autoreactive urticaria patients are also benefited from this method, and thus AST finds its place in the therapeutic armamentarium of clinicians treating chronic urticaria. Not considering the autologous skin prick test results, autologous serum therapy showed significant improvement in patients with chronic idiopathic urticaria. AST can, thus, be an effective treatment method for it.

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Frequently Asked Questions


1.

What Is the Usage of Autologous Serum Skin Tests?

The following are the use of the autologous serum skin test -  
 - Used for the detection of chronic urticaria.
 - For the detection of autoimmune urticaria.
 - Used for the detection of autoantibodies in the blood.
 - Determining the origin of the autoimmunity disease.

2.

How to Define Autologous Serum Skin Tests?

The autologous serum skin test (ASST) is an investigation used to determine autoimmune urticaria. It is a vivo test used to assess autoreactivity, and it involves the intradermal injection of autologous serum into the body.

3.

What Are Autologous Whole Blood Injections?

Autologous whole-blood injection is a complementary medical modality for the treatment of infection and skin disorders like urticaria and atopic eczema. This method involves repeatedly injecting the patient's own venous whole blood or serum into the patient's own muscle tissue or acupoints to treat the disease.

4.

What Are the Components of Autologous Serum Eye Drops?

Autologous serum eye drops are blood-derived and are composed of the following -
- Protein - Lysozyme, lactoferrin, albumin, and immunoglobulins.
- Growth factors - Epidermal growth factors.
- Vitamin A and C.
- Antioxidants.
- Electrolytes - Sodium, potassium, chloride, bicarbonate, magnesium, and calcium.

5.

What Is the Procedure for an Autologous Serum Skin Test?

The procedure of autologous serum skin test involves the following steps -
- The patient is advised to stop the antihistamine two days prior.
- Venous blood is collected from the patient and centrifuged, then injected back into the other arm of the patient. Histamine and saline are injected for positive control and negative control, respectively. 
- The response is recorded after 30 minutes.

6.

What Kind of Food Is Indicated in Urticaria?

Following are the type of food indicated for urticaria -
- Vegetables.
- Fruits.
- Fresh meat.
- Fresh fish.
- Rice.

7.

What Are the Signs of Cholinergic Urticaria?

Cholinergic urticaria appears like small hives 1 to 3 millimeters in size, red bumps with flares or circles, and is surrounded by wheals. The areas like the chest, face, upper back, and arms are mostly involved.

8.

What Types of Cancer involve Chronic Hives?

Researchers have stated that there are several malignancies that show signs like chronic hives.
- Lung cancer.
- Lymphoma.
- Ovarian cancer.
- Brain tumor.
- Carcinoid syndrome.

9.

What Are the Complications Associated With Autologous Serum Eye Drops?

The autologous serum eye drops are composed of the patient’s own blood. Therefore the complication associated with the eye drops is minimal or has no side effects. The only complication involved in the eye drops is the storage. The eye drops should be stored in a cool place.

10.

How Does an Individual Develop Cholinergic Urticaria?

Cholinergic urticaria can be developed suddenly due to some triggering factors like -
- Spicy food.
- Increased body temperature due to excessive exercise.
- Stress.

11.

What Indicates the Use of Autohemotherapy?

Autohemotherapy involves whole blood injections; the following are the benefits of therapy -
- Increased oxygen in the tissues and organs.
- Increase circulation.
- Activates the immune system.
- Helps in wound healing.
- Detoxification.

12.

What Are the Things That Should Be Avoided in Chronic Urticaria?

The following are the avoidable things in chronic urticaria -
- Histamine-rich food items.
- Citrus fruit.
- Papaya.
- Nuts.
- Alcohol.
- Tea.
- Medications like Aspirin and antibiotics.
- Stretching the hives.

13.

What Is the Reason for Hives Getting Worse at Night?

Hives that get worse at night are associated with triggering factors like -
- Food that is eaten at dinner.
- The fabric of the bed sheet.
- Intake of histamine-rich food.

14.

What Is the Duration of Chronic Urticaria?

Urticaria is a skin disease associated with itching and hives. It leads to batches of welts over the skin, with swelling and redness present. The duration of urticaria depends on the affected indidudal. However it subsides in five to six weeks but can return after several months.

15.

What Helps in Controlling Chronic Urticaria?

The following tips help in the urticaria -
- Avoid triggering factors.
- Use anti-itch drugs.
- Take a bath regularly.
- Avoid excessive exercise.
- Wear smooth and comfortable clothes.
- Apply sun protection lotion.

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Last reviewed at:
20 Dec 2022  -  5 min read

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