Intended for healthcare professionals

Papers Drug points

Allergy associated with ciprofloxacin

BMJ 2000; 320 doi: (Published 11 March 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;320:679
  1. P Burke,
  2. S R Burne
  1. St Bartholomew's Medical Centre, Oxford OX4 1XB, K J Cann, Department of Public Health, Oxfordshire Health Authority, Headington, Oxford OX3 7LG

    Meningococcal infection can be life threatening. Most infections are sporadic, although clusters do occur, particularly in teenagers. The management of clusters includes giving antibiotics to a defined group. Vaccination has a role in clusters of meningococcal serogroup C infection. Although ciprofloxacin 500 mg orally is not licensed for prophylaxis against meningococcal disease, it is used because it reduces meningococcal carriage, 1 can be given as a single dose, and, unlike rifampicin, does not interact adversely with the contraceptive pill.2 We report on anaphylactoid reactions to ciprofloxacin in three students and a close contact with meninogoccal infection (table).

    Serious allergic reactions to ciprofloxacin

    View this table:

    Two cases (one fatal) of meningococcal infection occurred in first year university students within 12 days of each other. Ciprofloxacin 500 mg orally was offered to all the 4253 students in their first year at the university; around 3200 accepted.

    Three cases of anaphylactoid reaction occurred—a rate of about 1:1000, much higher than the 1:100 000 quoted (12 cases in a population of 972 000).3 Two of the three students had no history of atopic illness. All three students and the contact recovered. Additional adverse reactions were mild skin rashes in three students and nausea and vomiting in two.

    A high rate of serious adverse events must be balanced by clear benefits to the target group. Ciprofloxacin clears meningococcal carriage so reducing transmission to a susceptible host. As carriers do not become cases the benefits from ciprofloxacin are for the community not the individual. The risk of a second case of infection among close contacts is 500 to 1000 times higher than in the general population.4 The risk of a third case in a student population that has already had two cases is unknown.


    1. 1.
    2. 2.
    3. 3.
    4. 4.
    View Abstract