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Immediate Hypersensitivity Reactions to Beta-Lactam Antibiotics

ANDREW SAXON, M. D.; GILDEN N. BEALL, M.D.; ALBERT S. ROHR, M.D.; and DANIEL C. ADELMAN, M.D.
[+] Article and Author Information

Grant support: in part by grant A1-00326 from the U.S. Public Health Service, and grants from Merck, Sharp and Dohme Co. and E. R. Squibb and Sons, Inc.

▸Reprints are not available.


Los Angeles, California


Ann Intern Med. 1987;107(2):204-215. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-107-2-204
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Allergic reactions to the beta-lactam antibiotics (penicillins, cephalosporins, carbapenems, and monobactams) are a major factor limiting their use. Immediate hypersensitivity reactions to penicillins depend on the presence of preformed allergic (IgE) antibodies to several penicillin determinants. These materials can be used in in-vivo skin testing to exclude those patients at risk for immediate or accelerated allergic reactions. The cephalosporins have not had their relevant determinants defined as related to allergic reactions. The results of in-vivo challenges of patients with IgE to penicillin suggest the incidence of reactivity of cephalosporins in patients allergic to penicillin is less than generally appreciated. The monocyclic beta-lactam antibiotic, aztreonman (a monobactam), failed to show cross-reactivity with penicillin antibodies, because immune reactivity toward the monobactam was directed against side chain rather than nuclear determinants. On the other hand, the new bicyclic carbapenem beta-lactam drugs, represented by imipenem, showed extensive in-vivo cross-reactivity with penicillins.

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