New test reveals whether you really ARE allergic to penicillin
A new test that proves if someone is genuinely allergic to penicillin could pave the way for millions more people to benefit from the drug, regarded as one of the most effective antibiotics available.
Around three million Britons are listed on their medical records as having suffered a reaction to penicillin, making it unsafe for them to take it to treat infections, ranging from a dental abscess to a throat infection or meningitis.
Yet the charity Antibiotic Research UK says that 95 per cent are not actually allergic.
Instead, many were labelled as such after developing borderline allergy-like symptoms - such as vomiting or a rash - when given the drug as an infant.
In many cases, studies show, the real cause of these symptoms was not the drug but a viral infection that was missed.
Even among those who do develop a genuine penicillin allergy early in life, about 80 per cent grow out of it within ten years, as their immune system becomes less sensitive to it.
The new test is significant, because patients who cannot currently take penicillin for infections are instead treated with a different class of medication - broad-spectrum antibiotics, including doxycycline and minocycline.