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Medical Science Monitor Basic Research


Rifampicin-Induced Pneumonitis Mimicking Severe COVID-19 Pneumonia Infection

Challenging differential diagnosis, Unusual or unexpected effect of treatment, Unexpected drug reaction , Rare disease

Fateen Ata, Mousa Shaher Mousa Hussein, Ahmad Y. Mismar, Rohit Sharma, Issam A. M. Bozom, Zeinab Alsiddig Ali Ibrahim, Wanis H. Ibrahim

Qatar Department of Internal Medicine, Hamad General Hospital, Hamad Medical Corporation, Doha, Qatar

Am J Case Rep 2020; 21:e927586

DOI: 10.12659/AJCR.927586

Available online: 2020-08-19

Published: 2020-08-25


BACKGROUND: Rifampicin-induced pneumonitis is an infrequent occurrence, with only a few cases reported in the literature. Furthermore, this condition constitutes a diagnostic challenge, particularly in the era of COVID-19 infection. Here, we report a case of rifampicin-induced pneumonitis with clinical, imaging, and histological features of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), which required severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) testing to exclude a diagnosis of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pneumonia.
CASE REPORT: A 43-year-old man on anti-TB treatment for TB meningitis developed new-onset fever, fatigue, hypoxemic respiratory failure, and bilateral pulmonary opacities. His clinical, chest X-ray, and CT thorax findings of ARDS were similar to both rifampicin-induced pneumonitis and severe COVID-19 pneumonia. However, reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing from a nasopharyngeal swab and bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) via the GeneXpert system was negative for SARS-CoV-2. A detailed workup, including lung biopsy, revealed drug-induced pneumonitis as the cause of his presentation. His pneumonitis improved after discontinuation of rifampicin and recurred following the rifampicin challenge.
CONCLUSIONS: This case highlights the importance of early, rapid, and accurate testing for SARS-CoV-2 during the COVID-19 pandemic for patients presenting with acute respiratory symptoms, so that accurate diagnosis and early patient management are not delayed for patients with treatable causes of acute and severe lung diseases. Timely identification of rifampicin-induced pneumonitis via a high clinical suspicion, detailed workup, and histopathological analysis is required to avoid permanent damage to the lungs.

Keywords: Antitubercular Agents, Coronavirus Infections, Lung Diseases, Interstitial, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Rifampin