We examined the potential for IgE-mediated cross-reactivity between the carbepenems, a new class of beta-lactam antibiotics, represented by imipenem, and penicillins. In vivo skin testing with the relevant imipenem and penicillin determinants was undertaken. Having determined the concentrations of imipenem materials that did not induce false positive skin tests in nonpenicillin-allergic control subjects, we tested 40 subjects with a history of penicillin-allergic reactions. Twenty of these subjects were found to be nonallergic to penicillin on skin testing, and none of these subjects reacted to the imipendem determinants. In contrast, half the 20 subjects who were positive to one or more penicillin determinants also reacted to imipenem reagents. There was a good correlation between the penicillin and imipenem reagents to which the patients reacted. Imipenem should only be administered to penicillin-allergic subjects with similar precautions of penicillin administration to such patients.