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Rifamycins ˌrif-ə-ˈmīs-ᵊn

By Hans P. Schlecht, MD, MSc, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Department of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases & HIV Medicine, Drexel University College of Medicine
Christopher Bruno, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of infectious Diseases & HIV Medicine, Drexel University College of Medicine

Rifamycins work by suppressing the bacteria's production of genetic material. As a result, the bacteria die.

Rifamycins include the following:

  • Rifampin

  • Rifabutin

  • Rifapentine

  • Rifaximin

Rifampin, rifabutin, and rifapentine are used to treat similar infections (such as tuberculosis) and have similar side effects. Rifabutin is also used to treat infection due to Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC), which usually occurs only in people with a weakened immune system. These drugs are usually used with other antibiotics.

Rifaximin is used to treat traveler's diarrhea caused by Escherichia coli (E. coli).



Common Uses

Some Side Effects





Liver dysfunction

Gastrointestinal upset

Red-orange saliva, sweat, tears, and urine

Interactions with many drugs, often requiring changes in the dose


Nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and flatulence

Use of Rifamycins During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

Rifamycins are used during pregnancy only when the benefits of treatment outweigh the risks. With rifabutin, no harmful effects on the fetus have been observed in animal studies, but no well-designed studies have been done in pregnant women. With rifampin and rifapentine, harmful effects on the fetus (including birth defects) have been observed in animal studies.

Use of rifamycins during breastfeeding is not recommended. A decision to stop breastfeeding or to stop rifampin should be made depending on the importance of the drug to the mother's health.

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