Clinical features, outcomes, and HLA risk factors associated with nitrofurantoin-induced liver injury

J Hepatol. 2023 Feb;78(2):293-300. doi: 10.1016/j.jhep.2022.09.010. Epub 2022 Sep 22.


Background & aims: Nitrofurantoin (NTF) is widely used for the treatment (short-term) and prevention (long-term) of urinary tract infections. We aimed to describe the clinical characteristics, outcomes, and HLA risk factors for NTF-induced liver injury (NTF-DILI) among individuals enrolled in the Drug Induced Liver Injury Network (DILIN).

Methods: Seventy-eight individuals with definite, highly likely, or probable NTF-DILI were enrolled into DILIN studies between 2004-2020. HLA alleles were compared between NTF-DILI and three control groups: population (n = 14,001), idiopathic autoimmune hepatitis (n = 231), and non-NTF DILI (n = 661).

Results: Liver injury was hepatocellular in 69% and icteric in 55%. AST > ALT was more common in the 44 long-exposure (≥1 year) NTF-DILI cases than in the 18 short (≤7 days) and 16 intermediate (>7 to <365 days) exposure cases (73% vs. 33% vs. 50%, respectively, p = 0.018), as was ANA or SMA positivity (91% vs. 44% vs. 50%, respectively, p <0.001), and corticosteroid use (61% vs. 27% vs. 44%, respectively, p = 0.06). In long-term NTF-DILI, bridging fibrosis, nodularity or cirrhosis, or clinical and imaging evidence for cirrhosis were present in 38%, with massive or sub-massive necrosis in 20%. No one in the short-term exposure group died or underwent transplantation, whereas 7 (12%) patients from the other groups died or underwent transplantation. After covariate adjustments, HLA-DRB1∗11:04 was significantly more frequent in NTF-DILI compared to population controls (odds ratio [OR] 4.29, p = 1.15 × 10-4), idiopathic autoimmune hepatitis (OR 11.77, p = 7.76 × 10-5), and non-NTF DILI (OR 3.34, p = 0.003).

Conclusion: NTF-DILI can result in parenchymal necrosis, bridging fibrosis, cirrhosis, and death or liver transplantation, especially with long-term exposure, and is associated with HLA-DRB1∗11:04. To mitigate against serious liver injury associated with NTF, regulators should revise the prescribing information and consider other mitigation strategies.

Impact and implications: Nitrofurantoin is a recognized cause of drug-induced liver injury (DILI). In this study consisting of a large cohort of well-phenotyped individuals with nitrofurantoin-induced liver injury, two distinct patterns of liver injury were identified: liver injury associated with short-term exposure, which is generally self-limiting, and liver injury associated with long-term exposure, which can lead to advanced fibrosis, cirrhosis and liver failure. HLA DRB1∗11:04 is a risk factor for liver injury due to long-term nitrofurantoin exposure. Our findings are important for regulators as well as physicians prescribing and pharmacists dispensing nitrofurantoin.

Keywords: Causality; Chronic DILI; Corticosteroids; DILI; LiverTox.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Chemical and Drug Induced Liver Injury* / etiology
  • Chemical and Drug Induced Liver Injury, Chronic*
  • Dyphylline
  • Fibrosis
  • HLA Antigens
  • HLA-DRB1 Chains / genetics
  • Hepatitis, Autoimmune* / etiology
  • Humans
  • Necrosis
  • Nitrofurantoin / adverse effects
  • Risk Factors


  • Nitrofurantoin
  • HLA-DRB1 Chains
  • Dyphylline
  • HLA Antigens