Penicillin was a historically revolutionary drug. It was the first prescribed antibiotic for syphilis, streptococci and staphylococci infections. Though some viruses have over time developed resistance to penicillin, it is still preferred over wide spread antibiotics for some ailments. This jump-started research into antibiotic therapies and the refocus on transmissible agents as a cause for infections. In many ways penicillin is considered a miracle drug.
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A History of Resistance
For many patients, penicillin is out of the question due to a perceived penicillin allergy. Usually this test is carried out in infancy and the diagnosis is carried without retesting for decades, if not a lifetime. A perceived history of penicillin allergy can now be more commonly tested with an easy to read skin test. The real surprising part is that most people who believe they are allergic just aren’t.
The Penicillin Skin Test
When is comes to a past history of penicillin allergy, some patients are more certain than others. Often this history is based on an adverse reaction that includes anything from a skin rash to anaphylactic shock. Subjects who reported an adverse reaction to penicillin where tested again as adults for the allergy.
Approximately 90% of test subject test negative for a penicillin allergy. It is important to note that since the margin of error is large (between 3-10%), penicillin should still not be taken for those who have had a life threatening adverse reaction. Still, this is excellent news for patients who have only vague histories of a penicillin allergy.
According to the Center for Disease Control, only 10% of penicillin allergy patients will retain an allergy throughout their lives. Evidence suggests that penicillin sensitivity may decrease over time. There is also a desensitizing procedure for positive tested subjects. This involves administering small and then incrementally larger doses of penicillin in a controlled hospital setting. The procedure lasts 14 hours and is effective in most patients.
To sum up, if you have a history a penicillin allergy there is a good chance nothing is wrong with you. To this day, there are still a score of medical reasons to use penicillin that make it still a revolutionary drug. Take the penicillin skin test to confirm whether or not you have this allergy. It is worth a shot and the results may surprise you.