Allergen extracts used in subcutaneous immunotherapy can be standardized or non-standardized. Standardized extracts are available in specific biological potencies, presumably making their biological activity more consistent. The majority of allergen extracts are non-standardized and may have less consistent potencies. Non-standardized extracts are labeled as weight per volume or protein nitrogen units (PNUs). Neither method provides direct information regarding the extract’s biologic potency. The purpose of this study was to compare weight per volume versus PNU concentrations for 4 non-standardized allergen extracts prepared by two allergen manufacturers. The potencies were compared to current North American practice recommendations.
The weight per volume and PNU values were provided for 4 non-standardized extracts—birch, short ragweed, dog hair and Alternaria—from HollisterStier and Stallergenes Greer. Weight per volume and PNU concentrations were compared for each of these extracts from both manufacturers. From the raw data, we calculated the corresponding PNU values for a weight per volume of 1:100 and 1:200 for each extract. Similarly, we calculated the corresponding weight per volume including a range of PNU values, for 1000, 2000, 3000, 4000 and 5000 PNU/ml.
Birch extract has low PNU concentration, below 5000, for a weight per volume of 1:200 for both HollisterStier and Stallergenes Greer. In contrast, for both HollisterStier and Stallergenes Greer ragweed extract, a weight per volume of 1:200 corresponds to a PNU concentration greater than 5000. Dog extract for a weight per volume of 1:200, and even for 1:100, corresponds to very low PNUs for both companies. For Alternaria, corresponding PNU concentrations for HollisterStier is low at only 500 while over 5000 for Stallergenes Greer.
Our results show variability when comparing weight per volume and PNU concentrations for both Hollister-Stier and Stallergenes Greer products. We suggest selecting a PNU dose that corresponds to a weight per volume of 1:200 as this may improve patient safety. Our recommendations for starting PNU dose for the four non-standardized extracts are 1500 for birch, 5000 for ragweed, 25 for dog, and 500 for Alternaria when using HollisterStier products; 2300 for birch, 5000 for ragweed, 1200 for dog, and 5000 for Alternaria when using Stallergenes Greer products. If the starting PNU concentration is considerably below 5000 for a weight per volume of 1:200 slow up-titration is advised. Conversely, for PNU concentrations above 5000 for weight per volume of 1:200 we suggest a maintenance dose of 5000 PNU.