Testing for drug hypersensitivity syndromes

Clin Biochem Rev. 2013 Feb;34(1):15-38.


Adverse drug reactions are a common cause of patient morbidity and mortality. Type B drug reactions comprise only 20% of all drug reactions but they tend to be primarily immunologically mediated and less dependent on the drug's pharmacological action and dose. Common Type B reactions seen in clinical practice are those of the immediate, IgE, Gell-Coombs Type I reactions, and the delayed, T-cell mediated, Type IV reactions. Management of these types of reactions, once they have occurred, requires careful consideration and recognition of the utility of routine diagnostic tests followed by ancillary specialised diagnostic testing. For Type I, IgE mediated reactions this includes prick/intradermal skin testing and oral provocation. For Type IV, T-cell mediated reactions this includes a variety of in vivo (patch testing) and ex vivo tests, many of which are currently mainly used in highly specialised research laboratories. The recent association of many serious delayed (Type IV) hypersensitivity reactions to specific drugs with HLA class I and II alleles has created the opportunity for HLA screening to exclude high risk populations from exposure to the implicated drug and hence prevent clinical reactions. For example, the 100% negative predictive value of HLA-B*5701 for true immunologically mediated abacavir hypersensitivity and the development of feasible, inexpensive DNA-based molecular tests has led to incorporation of HLA-B*5701 screening in routine HIV clinical practice. The mechanism by which drugs specifically interact with HLA has been recently characterised and promises to lead to strategies for pre-clinical screening to inform drug development and design.