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Keywords:

  • allergy;
  • cephalosporin;
  • cross-reactivity;
  • penicillin;
  • side chain

A group of 34 penicillin-allergic patients was studied to determine skin test reactivity to the different penicillins involved in inducing the allergic reaction and the cross-reactivity with side-chain-related and side-chain-unrelated cephalosporins. All the subjects selected for the study had to be skin test positive to at least one of the following determinants: benzyl-penicilloyl-polylysine (BPO-PLL), minor-determinant mixture (MDM), amoxicillin (AX), or ampicillin (AMP), or to possess in vitro IgE to the following conjugates: benzyl-penicilloyl-human-serum albumin (BPO-HSA), ampicilloyl-human-serum albumin (AMP-HSA), and amoxicilloyl-human-serum albumin (AX-HSA). Cephalexin (CE) and ceftazidime (CEF) were used to assess cross-reactivity. If skin tests to any of these compounds were positive, the patient was considered to be allergic; if negative, a challenge test was performed. Sixteen patients (47%) were skin test positive to BPO and/or MDM, and nine (26%) exclusively to AX and/or AMP. In three cases (8%), the RAST was positive although the skin test was negative; one to BPO-HSA and two to AX-HSA and AMP-HSA. Six patients (17%) needed to be challenged with the penicillin involved to establish the diagnosis. In five patients (14%), the skin tests were positive to CE and in none to CEF. In all the others, the skin tests were negative to both cephalosporins, and the patients tolerated the drugs when challenged. These results indicate the relevance of side-chain-specific minor determinants in betalactams allergy and provide support for the role of this chemical structure in the evaluation of cross-reactivity between penicillins and cephalosporins.