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Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2004 Apr;92(4):426-32.

Antibiotic desensitization for the allergic patient: 5 years of experience and practice.

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Division of Immunology, Children's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.



Antibiotic desensitization is an option for patients with suspected IgE-mediated antibiotic allergy when no other alternative exists for treating life-threatening bacterial infections. However, there are limited data describing the outcomes of this procedure with newer, commonly used antibiotics.


To evaluate the safety and utility of antibiotic desensitization.


We retrospectively reviewed the medical records of all patients undergoing antibiotic desensitization in our institution between November 1996 and November 2001.


There were a total of 57 desensitizations performed in 21 patients. The mean age of the patients was 22.8 years (range, 1.9-44.5 years) and 15 (71%) were female. Nineteen (90%) of the 21 patients had been diagnosed as having cystic fibrosis. In 33 (100%) of 33 desensitizations to unique antibiotics that occurred during the study period, the indication for desensitization was a history suggestive of an IgE-mediated reaction to the antibiotic and/or a positive skin test result to the antibiotic or a known cross-reactive antibiotic. Desensitizations were performed to 12 different antibiotics. Successful outcomes were achieved in 43 desensitizations (75%). Of the 11 cases (19%) that were terminated due to an allergic reaction, there were no fatalities, intubations, or other aggressive interventions besides the use of epinephrine, antihistamines, and corticosteroids. In 7 of 11 unsuccessful desensitizations, a non-IgE mechanism appeared to be responsible for the allergic reaction.


Antibiotic desensitization is a useful option when treating patients with life-threatening infections who must receive antibiotics to which they have an IgE-mediated allergy. These data indicate that in most cases, patients with presumed IgE-mediated antibiotic allergy may safely receive antibiotics after desensitization.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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