Azathioprine can cause severe myelosuppression. The inherited activity of the enzyme thiopurine methyltransferase has been recently recognised as a major factor in the susceptibility to myelosuppression. Thiopurine methyltransferase deficiency occurs at a frequency of one in 300 and is associated with profound myelosuppression after a short course of azathioprine. Very low thiopurine methyltransferase activity represents the TPMTL/TPMTL genotype, and can be detected before therapy with azathioprine is started. We describe the first documented case of azathioprine-induced severe myelosuppression due to thiopurine methyltransferase deficiency in autoimmune liver disease. The azathioprine dose was low (1 mg/kg) and pancytopenia occurred after 56 days therapy. It would be advisable to measure thiopurine methyltransferase activity before patients with autoimmune hepatitis are exposed to azathioprine.
- Autoimmune hepatitis
- Thiopurine methyltransferase