Skip to main content
Role of Oxidative Stress in Hypersensitivity Reactions to Sulfonamides
Journal of Clinical Pharmacology
  • Abdelbaset A Elzagallaai, The University of Western Ontario
  • Elham A Sultan
  • John R Bend, Western University
  • Awatif M Abuzgaia
  • Eman Loubani, Western University
  • Michael Rieder, University of Western Ontario
Document Type
Publication Date
URL with Digital Object Identifier

Antimicrobial sulfonamides are important medications. However, their use is associated with major immune-mediated drug hypersensitivity reactions with a rate that ranges from 3% to 4% in the general population. The pathophysiology of sulfa-induced drug hypersensitivity reactions is not well understood, but accumulation of reactive metabolites (sulfamethoxazole [SMX] hydroxylamine [SMX-HA] and SMX N-nitrosamine [SMX-NO]) is thought to be a major factor. These reactive metabolites contribute to the formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) known to cause cellular damage and induce cell death through apoptosis and necroptosis. ROS can also serve as "danger signals," priming immune cells to mount an immunological reaction. We recruited 26 sulfa-hypersensitive (HS) patients, 19 healthy control subjects, and 6 sulfa-tolerant patients to this study. Peripheral blood monocytes and platelets were isolated from blood samples and analyzed for in vitro cytotoxicity, ROS and carbonyl protein formation, lipid peroxidation, and GSH (glutathione) content after challenge with SMX-HA. When challenged with SMX-HA, cells isolated from sulfa-HS patients exhibited significantly (P ≤ .05) higher cell death, ROS and carbonyl protein formation, and lipid peroxidation. In addition, there was a high correlation between cell death in PBMCs and ROS levels. There was also depletion of GSH and lower GSH/GSSG ratios in peripheral blood mononuclear cells from sulfa-HS patients. The amount of ROS formed was negatively correlated with intracellular GSH content. The data demonstrate a major role for oxidative stress in in vitro cytotoxicity of SMX reactive metabolites and indicate increased vulnerability of cells from sulfa-HS patients to the in vitro challenge.

Citation Information
Abdelbaset A Elzagallaai, Elham A Sultan, John R Bend, Awatif M Abuzgaia, et al.. "Role of Oxidative Stress in Hypersensitivity Reactions to Sulfonamides" Journal of Clinical Pharmacology Vol. 60 Iss. 3 (2020) p. 409 - 421
Available at: