Successful orthotopic liver transplantation after trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole associated fulminant liver failure

Clin Transplant. 2003 Oct;17(5):461-4. doi: 10.1034/j.1399-0012.2003.00040.x.


Trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (TMP-SMZ) is one of the most commonly used antibiotics. Although many of its adverse effects are well recognized, TMP-SMZ related hepatotoxicity is considered rare and is usually characterized by cholestasis or mixed hepatocellular-holestatic reactions. In this study, we describe the case of a previously healthy young man with acute fulminant liver failure caused by TMP-SMZ. The patient presented with complaints of 'flu-like' symptoms with myalgia and fever after taking TMP-SMZ for 7 d for otitis externa. The patient subsequently developed fever, worsening jaundice, and a rash on his neck and chest. Liver enzymes peaked on day 3 with alanine aminotransferase (ALT) 11,549, aspartate aminotransferase (AST) 23,289, alkaline phosphatase 245, and total bilirubin 10.3 mg/dL, with a conjugated bilirubin of 8.3 mg/dL, prothrombin time (PT) 60.5 s, partial normalized ratio (PTT) 49 s, and international normalized ratio (INR) 7.5. Of note, acetaminophen level on admission was undetectable. Serology for hepatitis A, B, C, cytomegalovirus, HIV, toxoplasmosis, and blood cultures were all negative. The patient developed hepatic encephalopathy with hallucination on day 4. Laboratory tests revealed a serum ammonia level of 190 U, serum creatinine kinase (CK) 10,466 (42 on admission), serum creatinine 8.2 mg/dL (1.2 on admission), and significant metabolic acidosis. Renal ultrasound was unremarkable. The patient was started on hemodialysis for acute renal failure. Meanwhile, liver transplantation assessment was also initiated. On day 8 post-admission (15 d after taking TMP-SMZ), the patient received a successful orthotopic liver transplant.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anti-Infective Agents / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Liver / pathology
  • Liver Failure / chemically induced*
  • Liver Failure / pathology
  • Liver Transplantation*
  • Male
  • Trimethoprim, Sulfamethoxazole Drug Combination / adverse effects*


  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Trimethoprim, Sulfamethoxazole Drug Combination