Cross-reactivity and tolerability of aztreonam and cephalosporins in subjects with a T cell-mediated hypersensitivity to penicillins

Antonino Romano, Francesco Gaeta, Rocco Luigi Valluzzi, Michela Maggioletti, Cristiano Caruso

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The few studies performed in adults with T cell-mediated hypersensitivity to penicillins have found a rate of cross-reactivity with cephalosporins ranging from 2.8% to 31.2% and an absence of cross-reactivity with aztreonam. Objective: We sought to evaluate the possibility of using cephalosporins and aztreonam in subjects with documented delayed hypersensitivity to penicillins who especially require them. Methods: We conducted a prospective study of 214 consecutive subjects who had 307 nonimmediate reactions to penicillins (almost exclusively aminopenicillins) and had positive patch test and/or delayed-reading skin test responses to at least 1 penicillin reagent.To assess cross-reactivity with cephalosporins and aztreonam and the tolerability of such alternative β-lactams, all subjects underwent skin tests with cephalexin, cefaclor, cefadroxil, cefuroxime, ceftriaxone, and aztreonam. Subjects with negative responses were challenged with the alternative β-lactams concerned. Results: All subjects had negative skin test results to cefuroxime, ceftriaxone, and aztreonam and tolerated challenges. Forty (18.7%) of the 214 subjects had positive skin test responses to at least 1 aminocephalosporin. Of the 174 subjects with negative responses, 170 underwent challenges; 1 reacted to cefaclor. Conclusions: These data demonstrate a rate of cross-reactivity between aminopenicillins and aminocephalosporins (ie, cephalexin, cefaclor, and cefadroxil) of around 20%, as well as the absence of cross-reactivity between penicillins and cefuroxime, ceftriaxone, and aztreonam in all subjects with T cell-mediated hypersensitivity to penicillins, almost exclusively aminopenicillins. Therefore these subjects could be treated with cefuroxime, ceftriaxone, and aztreonam. In those who especially require cephalosporin or aztreonam treatment, however, we recommend pretreatment skin tests because negative responses indicate tolerability.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology
Publication statusPublished - Mar 23 2016


  • Aztreonam
  • Cephalosporins
  • Challenges
  • Cross-reactivity
  • Nonimmediate reactions
  • Penicillins
  • Skin tests
  • Tolerability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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