Update on the evaluation of hypersensitivity reactions to betalactams

Allergy. 2009 Feb;64(2):183-93. doi: 10.1111/j.1398-9995.2008.01916.x.


Hypersensitivity reactions to betalactams (BLs) are classified as immediate or nonimmediate. The former usually appear within 1 h of drug-intake and are mediated by specific IgE-antibodies. Nonimmediate reactions are those occurring more than 1 h after drug-intake, and they can be T-cell mediated. The diagnostic evaluation of allergic reactions to BLs has changed over the last 5 years, for several reasons. Major and minor determinants are no longer commercially available for skin testing in many countries. In immediate allergic reactions, the sensitivity of skin testing and immunoassays is decreasing and new in vitro methods, such as the basophil activation test, are gaining importance for diagnosis. For nonimmediate reactions, skin testing appears to be less sensitive than previous results, although more studies need to be carried out in this direction. Nevertheless, the drug provocation test is still necessary for diagnosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / adverse effects*
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / immunology
  • Cross Reactions / immunology
  • Drug Hypersensitivity / diagnosis*
  • Drug Hypersensitivity / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Cellular / immunology
  • Immunoglobulin E / blood
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Skin Tests
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • beta-Lactams / adverse effects*
  • beta-Lactams / immunology


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • beta-Lactams
  • Immunoglobulin E