Introduction and aim. Biologic treatment – particularly with the anti-TNF molecules – is frequently used in clinical practice to treat the severe form for both chronic rheumatic diseases and inflammatory bowel diseases. The immunosuppression induced by biologic therapies increases the risk of infections, including tuberculosis, as well as hepatitis B virus (HBV) reactivation may occur in inactive carriers or occult HBV infection (OBI)
subjects during biologic therapy. This study aimed to update data on HBV prevalence and reactivation in patients receiving biologic therapy for either chronic rheumatic diseases or IBD, and to describe their management in clinical practice.
Materials and methods. This study was performed in 6 Italian centers (3 Rheumatology Units and 3 Gastroenterology Units). Clinical, biochemical and virological data, as well as follow up information, were recorded and analyzed.
Results. 984 patients were considered, including 817 with rheumatic disease and 167 with IBD. A total of 43 showed HBV infection (38 OBI and 5 carriers) accounting for a prevalence of 4%. Among OBI patients, 1 (2.6%) case of HBV reactivation occurred in a male patient with Crohn disease. Among the 5 HBV carriers, two patients (1 with spondyloarthritis and 1 with rheumatoid arthritis) did not received HBV antiviral therapy, and both experienced flare of hepatitis at 47 and 49 months following biologic therapy starting.
Discussion. Data of our study highlight that guidelines on management of HBV patients treated with biologic therapies should be still implemented in clinical practice when considering that, although infrequent, HBV reactivation could be potentially lifethreatening.