The origins of immunology and allergy are founded upon the early 19th century microbiological studies of Jenner and Pasteur. It was discovered that the immune system could cause harm. The subspecialty of allergy began with the coining of the term by Von Pirquet in 1906 to describe disorders resulting from hyper-reaction to normally innocuous environmental agents.
Understanding the scientific basis of the immune system and allergy allowed Noon and Freeman, and later Cooke, to develop allergen immunotherapy. Initially the technique was crude, but with the subsequent key discovery of IgE, more accurate methods of diagnosis (such as the radioallergosorbent test (RAST)) and treatment ensued. The efficacy of specific immunotherapy has been demonstrated by many double-blind trials culminating in the WHO position paper.
DNA recombinant technology has provided detailed molecular understanding of allergic disorders, which has resulted in several novel methods of immunotherapy that are potentially safer and more effective. Use of recombinant allergens, T-cell peptides, DNA vaccination with CpG motifs or plasmid vectors and anti-IgE strategies with monoclonal antibodies are showing promise.