Acute renal failure due to rifampicin: a study of 25 patients

Am J Kidney Dis. 2002 Oct;40(4):690-6. doi: 10.1053/ajkd.2002.35675.


Background: Acute renal failure (ARF) caused by rifampicin typically occurs on intermittent administration. There are isolated case reports and only one series reported in the literature. Systematic data, especially from countries endemic for tuberculosis and leprosy, are sparse.

Methods: We studied demographic, clinical, biochemical, and histopathologic features and prognosis of 25 consecutive patients with rifampicin-associated ARF admitted from July 1990 to June 2000.

Results: Rifampicin-associated ARF constituted 2.5% of all cases of ARF seen during the study period. The most common pattern of drug intake resulting in ARF (40%) was ingestion of a single dose preceded by a drug-free period (range, 10 days to 6 years) after a course of daily rifampicin (range, 8 days to 18 months). Onset was with gastrointestinal and flu-like symptoms 4 hours (median) after drug intake. All patients were oliguric. Anemia and thrombocytopenia each occurred in 60% of patients. Acute hepatitis was present in 32%. Among 12 patients who underwent kidney biopsy, 7 patients (58%) had acute interstitial nephritis (AIN). Crescentic glomerulonephritis was seen in 1 patient, and mesangial proliferation, in 3 patients. No single feature at presentation predicted the severity of renal failure. There were no deaths, and all patients recovered renal function.

Conclusion: Patients with rifampicin-associated ARF were oliguric and presented with gastrointestinal and flu-like symptoms, typically after reintroduction of the drug after a drug-free period. Anemia and thrombocytopenia were common. AIN was the most common biopsy finding. No factor predicted severity, but the renal prognosis was good.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Acute Kidney Injury / chemically induced*
  • Acute Kidney Injury / diagnosis
  • Acute Kidney Injury / urine
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antibiotics, Antitubercular / adverse effects
  • Antibiotics, Antitubercular / therapeutic use
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leprosy / drug therapy
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oliguria / pathology
  • Prognosis
  • Rifampin / adverse effects*
  • Rifampin / therapeutic use
  • Tuberculosis, Lymph Node / drug therapy


  • Antibiotics, Antitubercular
  • Rifampin