Azathioprine hypersensitivity mimicking Goodpasture's syndrome

Am J Kidney Dis. 1994 Jun;23(6):874-7. doi: 10.1016/s0272-6386(12)80144-2.


Side effects due to azathioprine (the nitroimidazole derivative of 6-mercaptopurine) can be classified as toxic (myelosuppression, hepatotoxicity) and idiosyncratic (fever, rigors, arthralgias, pneumonitis, and gastrointestinal symptoms). While the toxic effects are due to 6-mercaptopurine, the hypersensitivity reactions are believed to be caused by the nitroimidazole moiety. A 21-year-old male patient developed end-stage renal failure due to antiglomerular basement membrane (AGBM) disease (rapidly progressive glomerulonephritis with linear immunoglobulin G deposits and positive circulating AGBM antibodies). The patient became dependent on continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis and, later, hemodialysis, and received two renal allografts at the ages of 23 and 27 years. He received three courses of azathioprine treatment: one course for AGBM glomerulonephritis and two courses for rejection episodes. Each course was followed within 4 to 7 days by symptoms compatible with Goodpasture's syndrome, ie, high fever, rigors, arthralgias, diarrhea, myalgias, and pulmonary infiltrates with hemoptysis. All signs and symptoms always resolved completely on discontinuation of azathioprine. During the treatment for rejections, AGBM antibodies were not elevated, and during one episode AGBM disease in the lung (Goodpasture's syndrome) was excluded by open lung biopsy. Treatment of a subsequent rejection episode with 6-mercaptopurine was well tolerated. We conclude that azathioprine hypersensitivity can mimic the pulmonary manifestations of Goodpasture's syndrome. Hypersensitivity probably is due to the nitroimidazole moiety of azathioprine. Thus, differential diagnosis of Goodpasture's syndrome (and probably of any "pulmonary renal syndrome") should include azathioprine hypersensitivity.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anti-Glomerular Basement Membrane Disease / diagnosis*
  • Azathioprine / adverse effects*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Drug Hypersensitivity / diagnosis*
  • Hemorrhage / chemically induced
  • Hemorrhage / diagnosis
  • Humans
  • Lung / diagnostic imaging
  • Lung Diseases / chemically induced
  • Lung Diseases / diagnosis
  • Male
  • Radiography


  • Azathioprine