PURPOSE: Cephalosporins can induce occupational allergies, such as asthma, urticaria, and anaphylaxis. We investigated the prevalence and risk factors of sensitization to cephalosporin.
METHODS: A total of 161 health care workers (HCW), including 138 nurses and 23 pharmacists, and 86 unexposed non-atopic healthy controls were recruited from a single tertiary hospital and the general population. A questionnaire regarding work-related symptoms was administered along with skin prick tests (SPT) to the three most commonly used cephalosporins (cefotiam, ceftriaxone, and ceftizoxime). Serum specific IgE antibodies to conjugates of the three cephalosporins and human serum albumin (HSA) were measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Binding specificities were confirmed by ELISA inhibition tests.
RESULTS: The prevalence of work-related symptoms in association with cephalosporins was 17.4%. The sensitization rate to any cephalosporin was 3.1% by SPT. Sensitization rates determined by measurement of serum specific IgE antibodies were 17.4% for any cephalosporin, 10.4% for cefotiam, 6.8% for ceftriaxone, and 3.7% for ceftizoxime. A personal history of any antibiotic allergy was a risk factor for work-related symptoms (OR, 24.93; 95% CI, 2.61-238), but not for the presence of serum specific IgE antibodies to cephalosporins (OR, 0.9; 95% CI, 0.18-4.53). A personal history of atopic dermatitis was a risk factor for the presence of serum specific IgE antibodies to cefotiam-HSA conjugate (OR, 6.30; 95% CI, 1.23-32.3).
CONCLUSIONS: A high cephalosporin sensitization rate (17.4%) was detected by ELISA in HCW exposed to cephalosporins. Monitoring of serum specific IgEs to cephalosporin-HSA conjugates will be useful for detecting sensitized subjects.
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