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Rifabutin for infection


Rifabutin is an antibiotic which is used to treat (or prevent) serious infections caused by germs (bacteria) called mycobacteria.

You can take rifabutin capsules either before or after meals. You will be asked to take one dose a day.

Rifabutin can interfere with a number of other medicines - please let your doctor know which other medicines you are taking.

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About rifabutin

Type of medicine

An antibiotic and antituberculosis medicine

Used for

To treat infections caused by mycobacteria;

To prevent infections caused by mycobacteria in people with low immunity

Also called


Available as


Mycobacteria are a group of germs (bacteria) that can cause serious infections. Tuberculosis (TB) is a disease caused by one of the bacteria from this group, called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. TB usually affects the lungs.

Rifabutin is an antibiotic used to treat infections caused by mycobacteria. It is often prescribed for people with pulmonary TB. When prescribed in this way, it is usually prescribed as just one of a number of medicines to treat the infection. You may have been prescribed it for this reason. Alternatively, if your doctor thinks you might be at risk of a mycobacterial infection because your natural immunity has been lowered (such as if you have HIV), you will have been prescribed rifabutin as a preventative measure, to protect you from getting a mycobacterial infection.

Before taking rifabutin

Some medicines are not suitable for people with certain conditions, and sometimes a medicine can only be used if extra care is taken. For these reasons, before you start taking rifabutin it is important that your doctor knows:

  • If you are pregnant, trying for a baby or breastfeeding.

  • If you have any problems with how your liver works, or any problems with the way your kidneys work.

  • If you have a rare inherited blood disorder caller porphyria.

  • If you are taking any other medicines. This includes any medicines you are taking which are available to buy without a prescription, as well as herbal and complementary medicines.

  • If you have ever had an allergic reaction to a medicine.

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How to take rifabutin

  • Before you start the treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside the pack. It will give you more information about rifabutin and will provide you with a full list of the side-effects which you could experience from taking it.

  • There are several ways rifabutin could be prescribed for you, depending upon the reason why you are taking it. Your doctor will tell you which way is right for you. It is very important that you take rifabutin exactly as your doctor tells you to. Your dose will be printed on the label of the pack to remind you about what the doctor said to you. As a guide:

    • To prevent infections, you will be asked to take two capsules every day.

    • To treat TB you will be asked to take one to three capsules every day.

    • To treat an infection (other than TB) you will be asked to take three or four capsules every day.

  • You can take rifabutin at whatever time of day you find easiest to remember, but try to take your doses at the same time of day, each day. This will help you to remember to take your doses regularly. You can take rifabutin capsules either before or after meals.

  • If you forget to take a dose, take it as soon as you remember. If you do not remember until the following day, leave out the forgotten dose from the previous day and take the dose that is due as normal. Do not take two doses together to make up for a missed dose.

  • You must complete the full course of treatment (unless your doctor tells you otherwise) or your infection may come back. A course of treatment usually lasts for around six months. If you are taking rifabutin to prevent an infection, it is likely that you will be asked to take the capsules for the rest of your life.

Getting the most from your treatment

  • It is important that you keep your regular appointments with your doctor. This is so your doctor can check on your progress. Your doctor may want you to have some blood tests from time to time during the treatment to make sure that your blood and liver are working properly.

  • Rifabutin can cause your urine, sweat or skin to have an orange-reddish colour. This is completely harmless - it is nothing for you to worry about.

  • If you wear soft contact lenses, please be aware that rifabutin can cause your lenses to become discoloured or stained. You may want to discuss this with your doctor or optician. An alternative type of contact lens may be more suitable for you, or alternatively, you may be advised to wear glasses instead.

  • Make sure you have discussed with your doctor which types of contraception are suitable for you and your partner. The contraceptive effect of 'the pill', 'mini pill', contraceptive patches and vaginal rings is reduced by rifabutin and so these on their own are not suitable types of birth control.

  • If you buy any medicines, check with a pharmacist that they are suitable for you to take. This is because rifabutin can interfere with a number of other medicines and stop them from working properly.

  • Rifabutin can stop the oral typhoid vaccine from working as it should. If you are due to have any vaccinations, please make sure that the person treating you knows that you are taking this medicine.

  • If you are due to have an operation or any dental treatment, please tell the person carrying out the treatment that you are taking an antibiotic called rifabutin.

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Can rifabutin cause problems?

Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. The table below contains some of the most common ones associated with rifabutin. You will find a full list in the manufacturer's information leaflet supplied with the medicine. The unwanted effects often improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine, but speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following continue or become troublesome.

Common rifabutin side-effects (these affect fewer than 1 in 10 people)

What can I do if I experience this?

Feeling sick (nausea)

Stick to simple or bland meals (avoid rich and spicy foods)

Muscle pain, high temperature (fever), and rash

If any of these become troublesome, speak with your doctor for advice

Changes to some blood test results (you may get frequent infections, or feel very tired)

Your doctor will check for these

Important: if you develop severe diarrhoea, persistent sickness (vomiting), or any yellowing of your skin or the whites of your eyes (jaundice), you should speak with a doctor straightaway. These are rare but serious side-effects that you must tell your doctor about as soon as possible.

If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to the medicine, please speak with your doctor or pharmacist for further advice.

How to store rifabutin

  • Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.

  • Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.

Important information about all medicines

Important information about all medicines

Do not take more than the prescribed dose. If you suspect that you or someone else might have taken an overdose of this medicine, go to the accident and emergency department of your local hospital. Take the container with you, even if it is empty.

This medicine is for you. Never give it to other people even if their condition appears to be the same as yours.

Do not keep out-of-date or unwanted medicines. Take them to your local pharmacy which will dispose of them for you.

If you have any questions about this medicine ask your pharmacist.

Report side effects to a medicine or vaccine

If you experience side effects, you can report them online through the Yellow Card website.

Further reading and references

Article history

The information on this page is written and peer reviewed by qualified clinicians.

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