Cross-Reactivity and Tolerability of Cephalosporins in Patients with IgE-Mediated Hypersensitivity to Penicillins

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Studies performed since 1990 on samples of at least 30 subjects with a documented IgE-mediated hypersensitivity to penicillins have found a rate of positive responses to allergy tests with cephalosporins ranging from 0% to 27%.

OBJECTIVE: We sought to assess the cross-reactivity with cephalosporins and evaluate the possibility of using cephalosporins in penicillin-allergic subjects.

METHODS: We conducted a prospective study of 252 consecutive subjects who had suffered 319 immediate reactions (mostly anaphylaxis) to penicillins and had positive skin tests to at least 1 penicillin reagent. All patients underwent serum specific IgE assays for cefaclor, as well as skin tests with 3 aminocephalosporins (cephalexin, cefaclor, and cefadroxil), cefamandole, cefuroxime, ceftazidime, ceftriaxone, cefotaxime, and cefepime. Patients with negative results for the last 5 cephalosporins were challenged with cefuroxime axetil and ceftriaxone; those with negative results for aminocephalosporins were also challenged with cefaclor and cefadroxil.

RESULTS: Ninety-nine participants (39.3%) had positive allergy tests for cephalosporins. Specifically, 95 (37.7%) were positive to aminocephalosporins and/or cefamandole, which share similar or identical side chains with penicillins. All 244 subjects who underwent challenges with cefuroxime axetil and ceftriaxone tolerated them. Of the 170 patients who underwent aminocephalosporin challenges, 3 reacted to cefaclor and 4 to cefadroxil.

CONCLUSIONS: Cross-reactivity between penicillins and cephalosporins seems to be mainly related to side chain similarity or identity. Subjects with an IgE-mediated hypersensitivity to penicillins could be treated with cephalosporins such as cefuroxime and ceftriaxone that have side-chain determinants different from those of penicillins and are negative in pretreatment skin testing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1662-1672
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Feb 7 2018


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