Open clinical trial of rifabutin and clarithromycin therapy in Crohn's disease

Dig Liver Dis. 2002 Jan;34(1):22-8. doi: 10.1016/s1590-8658(02)80055-x.


Background: Crohn's disease, an inflammatory bowel disease in humans, has a suspected aetiology of Mycobacterium avium subsp. Paratuberculosis.

Aims: To evaluate the role of rifabutin and clarithromycin anti-Mycobacterium avium subsp. Paratuberculosis treatment in Crohn's disease patients using an open clinical trial.

Methods: . A total of 36 patients with acute presentations of Crohn's disease, whose sera tested positive against p35 and p36 antigens (two recombinant proteins of Mycobacterium avium subsp. Paratuberculosis), were selected for treatment with rifabutin and macrolide antibiotic therapy Rifabutin and macrolide antibiotic therapy medications included 250 mg 1 po bid clarithromycin and 150 mg 1 po bid Ri-fabutin accompanied with a probiotic. Crohn's disease patients' response to rifabutin and macrolide antibiotic therapy was monitored over a period ranging from 4 to 17 months.

Results: Seven patients (19.4%) withdrew from the study since they were unable to tolerate medications. Of the remaining 29 patients, 21 (58.3%) reached a sustained state of improvement, traditionally defined as a decrease of 70 points between their entrance and exit Crohn's disease activity index scores together with the absence of the need of all other Crohn's medications, such as immunosuppressants and corticosteroids. Three Crohn's disease patients [8. 3%) noticed significant improvements, but required other Crohn's medications, concurrently with rifabutin and macrolide antibiotic therapy, to achieve and sustain improvement. Only 5 Crohn's disease patients (13.8%) were non-responders, noticing no marked improvement while on rifabutin and macrolide antibiotic therapy.

Conclusion: The data add further evidence to support the role of rifabutin and macrolide antibiotic therapy in the treatment of Crohn's disease specifically in those patients with evidence of Mycobacterium avium subsp. Paratuberculosis infection. A large multi-centre clinical trial is needed to further explore these findings.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Antibiotics, Antitubercular / therapeutic use*
  • Clarithromycin / therapeutic use*
  • Colonoscopy
  • Crohn Disease / drug therapy*
  • Crohn Disease / microbiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis / isolation & purification*
  • Paratuberculosis / complications
  • Paratuberculosis / drug therapy*
  • Remission Induction
  • Rifabutin / therapeutic use*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Antibiotics, Antitubercular
  • Rifabutin
  • Clarithromycin