Background: The diagnosis of IgE-mediated immediate reactions to penicillins can be supported by in vivo or in vitro tests using classical benzylpenicillin determinants. The wide variety of β-lactams and the description of new specificities requires a re-evaluation of the different tests available. The objective was to evaluate the diagnostic capacity of Pharmacia CAP System™ RAST FEIA amoxicilloyl c6 (AXO) and benzylpenicilloyl c1 (BPO) in patients with a documented IgE-mediated penicillin allergy.
Methods: We studied 129 patients in five groups. Groups 1, 2, and 3 had developed an immediate reaction after penicillin treatment. Group 1 (n=19) were skin test positive to amoxicillin (AX) and/or BPO and/or minor determinant mixture (MDM); group 2 (n=29) were skin test positive to AX but negative to BPO and MDM; and group 3 (n=26) were skin test negative to all determinants, the diagnosis being confirmed by a previous repetitive history or controlled administration. Two control groups, one with nonimmediate reactions – group 4 (n=25) – and one with good tolerance to penicillin – group 5 (n=30) – were included. All samples were analyzed in vitro for AXO and BPO, and the results compared to the in vivo diagnosis.
Results: AX was the drug most often involved. In group 1, 53% were in vitro positive for AXO and 68% for BPO, but 74% had at least one positive test result. In group 2, only 10% had a positive in vitro test to BPO compared to 41% to AXO. In group 3, 42% had positive BPO and/or AXO in vitro tests. In the control groups 4 and 5, the negative in vitro results for AXO were 96% and 100%, and for BPO 100% and 97%, respectively. A positive correlation between specific IgE levels and the time interval from the reaction to the evaluation was found only for group 3.
Conclusions: This in vitro assay is beneficial for evaluating subjects allergic to β-lactams. It is necessary to test for specific IgE to AXO in addition to BPO in patients with immediate allergic reactions after AX. The combination of in vivo and in vitro tests for estimating IgE antibodies to penicillins is important because of the existence of patients with a positive history but negative skin test.