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Amoxicillin exposure in the workplace



Hello. I am a biotechnologist running bacterial fermentations at large scale. One of our new fermentations uses ampicillin. A few years ago, I took amoxicillin for the first time since childhood and had a horrible, itchy rash develop. My doctor said this was an allergic reaction, and I should stay clear of the `cillins` just to be safe. I`m wondering how much exposure I should be concerned about. Obviously, I will not be in the lab when the powdered antibiotic is weighed out to make the concentrated solution. I will also avoid using the concentrated solution, but at a concentration of 50mg/L in the fermentation broth itself, should I avoid contact with the broth? Do I need to be concerned with aerosol formation when samples are being collected from the fermentor? I don`t know how sensitive this kind of allergy can be. I am assuming not as sensitive as a peanut allergy, but I have no data to back that up. Any feadback you can provide would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!


The answer to your question is difficult. How much exposure is necessary, I don't know. How sensitive are you, I don't know. If you had a reaction to the medicine taken orally, then it is possible to have a reaction to any exposure that gives you enough exposure to mimic oral dosing. If you were to breathe in lots of amoxicillin dust from weighing the powder, it is possible to get enough to react. As for the broth, I don't know what form the amoxicillin is in, so it is hard to say whether there is going to be an exposure. Theoretically, the smell and off-gas product should be safe if you are collecting the fermentation product. One would assume there is not amoxicillin in the gas released. Drug allergy can be as severe as peanut allergy or any other, it just depends on the person, drug and sensitivity. If you are not sure, I suggest you work with an allergist and your employers safety team to determine the correct environment to work in for safety.

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Response by:

David  Hauswirth, MD David Hauswirth, MD
Clinical Assistant Professor
Pulmonary, Allergy, Crtitical Care & Sleep
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University