What Is Rifampin Used For?
Rifampin is a type of antibiotic prescribed to treat certain bacterial infections in adults and children. This medicine is specifically used to treat tuberculosis and to treat people who are carriers of the bacteria Neisseria meningitides. There are also some off-label (unapproved) uses for rifampin, such as treating brucellosis, leprosy, and cholestatic pruritus.
Rifampin (Rifadin®) is a prescription antibiotic that belongs to a group of medications known as rifamycins. It comes in the form of a capsule, which is taken by mouth, and an injection, which is given intravenously (as an injection into a vein, or by IV).
Oral rifampin is approved to treat tuberculosis. It is also approved to treat people who are carriers of the bacteria Neisseria meningitides (also referred to as meningococcus), to get rid of the bacteria from the nasopharynx (the nose and throat). Rifampin injections are used in people with tuberculosis who cannot take rifampin by mouth.
Tuberculosis (TB) is an infection caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis (or simply M. tuberculosis). It most commonly affects the lungs, but can also affect almost any other organ in the body.
TB is spread by tiny droplets released into the air when a person with active TB coughs or sneezes. These tiny droplets contain the bacteria that cause tuberculosis. When a nearby person breathes in the droplets, they become infected (see Tuberculosis Transmission).
Not everyone who becomes infected with TB will develop symptoms. Most people who have a healthy immune system are able to fight off the bacteria.
In these people, the bacteria remain in the body, but in an inactive state. The inactive bacteria do not multiply or cause symptoms. This is called latent TB, inactive TB, or simply TB infection. People with latent TB cannot spread the infection to others.
When the immune system cannot fight the infection, TB becomes active. Active TB (also called TB disease) causes symptoms such as coughing, weight loss, fever, and night sweats (see Symptoms of Tuberculosis). It is this active form of TB that is spread from person to person.
Rifampin is used to treat all forms of TB. It is one of the most commonly used treatments for TB. Most people with active TB will be treated with a combination of medications for at least six months. For the first two months, rifampin is often combined with two or three other medications -- usually isoniazid, pyrazinamide, and ethambutol (Myambutol®).
After two months, treatment is continued with rifampin and isoniazid for at least four additional months. Longer treatment is recommended for certain people, however, including those who still have bacteria detectable in their body, who have bacteria that are resistant to TB medications, or who have an HIV infection.
It is very important that people being treated for TB take their medications exactly as prescribed. Although the symptoms of TB will get better before treatment is completely finished, the entire course of treatment is necessary to completely rid the body of bacteria. Skipping doses, or not completing the full treatment course, can lead to bacteria that are resistant to TB medications. Drug-resistant TB is much more difficult to treat and cure.