Phototoxicity, also called photoirritation, is a chemically induced skin irritation, requiring light, that does not involve the immune system.[1] It is a type of photosensitivity.[1][2]

The skin response resembles an exaggerated sunburn. The involved chemical may enter into the skin by topical administration or it may reach the skin via systemic circulation following ingestion or parenteral administration. The chemical needs to be "photoactive", which means that when it absorbs light, the absorbed energy produces molecular changes that cause toxicity. Many synthetic compounds, including drug substances like tetracyclines or fluoroquinolones, are known to cause these effects. Surface contact with some such chemicals causes photodermatitis; many plants cause phytophotodermatitis. Light-induced toxicity is a common phenomenon in humans; however, it also occurs in other animals.

Scientific background

A phototoxic substance is a chemical compound which becomes toxic when exposed to light.

Photosafety evaluation

In vitro test systems

3T3 Neutral Red Phototoxicity Test – An in vitro toxicological assessment test used to determine the cytotoxic and photo(cyto)toxicity effect of a test article to murine fibroblasts in the presence or absence of UVA light.

"The 3T3 Neutral Red Uptake Phototoxicity Assay (3T3 NRU PT) can be utilized to identify the phototoxic effect of a test substance induced by the combination of test substance and light and is based on the comparison of the cytotoxic effect of a test substance when tested after the exposure and in the absence of exposure to a non-cytotoxic dose of UVA/vis light. Cytotoxicity is expressed as a concentration-dependent reduction of the uptake of the vital dye - Neutral Red.

Substances that are phototoxic in vivo after systemic application and distribution to the skin, as well as compounds that could act as phototoxicants after topical application to the skin can be identified by the test. The reliability and relevance of the 3T3 NRU PT have been evaluated and has been shown to be predictive when compared with acute phototoxicity effects in vivo in animals and humans." Taken with permission from

During drug development

Several health authorities have issued related guidance documents, which need to be considered for drug development:

See also


  1. 1 2 Anderson, D.M.; Keith, J.; Novac, P.; Elliott, M.A., eds. (1994). Dorland's Illustrated Medical Dictionary (28th ed.). W. B. Saunders Company. ISBN 0721655777.
  2. JH Epstein (1999). "Phototoxicity and photoallergy". Seminars in cutaneous medicine and surgery. 18 (4): 274–284. PMID 10604793.
  3. "Multidisciplinary Guidelines". ICH. Retrieved 2013-08-06.
  4. 1 2 "Safety Guidelines". ICH. Retrieved 2013-08-06.
  5. 1 2 "European Medicines Agency - Non-clinical: Toxicology". 2010-06-24. Retrieved 2013-08-06.

External links

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