Immediate allergic reactions to betalactams (BLs) are due to IgE antibodies that recognize the ring-derived penicilloyl determinant or side-chain structures of common BLs. The presence of specific IgE antibodies can be demonstrated by skin testing, the determination of specific IgE antibodies in sera or their binding to basophils with subsequent activation upon contact with penicillins in vitro. Skin tests are still the most sensitive technique followed by in vitro tests, which may sometimes yield useful complementary information. The diversity of the response to BLs has meant that in some instances, in addition to benzylpenicillin-derived determinants, testing for amoxycillin, cephalosporins or other BLs may also be required to establish the diagnosis. The recent withdrawal from the market of BL-derived materials for skin testing will have a serious effect on public health, resulting in a return to the pre-1960 era before these reagents became available. Because of their greater sensitivity, these skin tests cannot yet be replaced by in vitro tests. Furthermore, skin tests are the most readily available form of allergy testing for physicians. This paper reviews the results of skin tests in BL allergy and provides evidence for their continued need.
- Skin test
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