Sulfonamide allergy and cross-reactivity

Curr Allergy Asthma Rep. 2007 Apr;7(1):41-8. doi: 10.1007/s11882-007-0029-8.


Concerns about cross-allergenicity between sulfonamide antibiotics and nonantibiotic sulfonamide-containing drugs continue to complicate pharmacotherapy. Several elegant investigations have demonstrated unequivocal lack of interaction between the sulfonamide group and either cellular or humoral immunity. The immunologic determinant of type I immunologic responses to sulfonamide antibiotics is the N1 heterocyclic ring, and nonantibiotic sulfonamides lack this structural feature. Many non-type I hypersensitivity responses to sulfonamide antibiotics are attributable to reactive metabolites that cause either direct cytotoxicity or humoral or cellular responses. Metabolite formation is stereospecific to the N4 amino nitrogen of the sulfonamide antibiotics, a structure not found on any nonantibiotic sulfonamide drugs. Cellular immune responses to sulfonamide antibiotics are responsible for many non-immunoglobulin E-mediated dermatologic reactions; however, the stereospecificity of T-cell response renders cross-reactivity between sulfonamide antibiotics and nonantibiotics highly unlikely. Apparent cross-reactivity responses to sulfonamide-containing drugs likely represent multiple concurrent, rather than linked, drug hypersensitivities.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cross Reactions
  • Drug Hypersensitivity / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Sulfonamides / adverse effects*
  • Sulfonamides / chemistry
  • Sulfonamides / immunology
  • Sulfonamides / metabolism


  • Sulfonamides