Objective. Patients with resolved hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection, i.e., hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg)-negative/antihepatitis B core antigen (anti-HBc)-positive, undergoing rituximab (RTX)-based chemotherapy for hematological malignancies without anti-HBV prophylaxis are at risk of HBV reactivation, but the risk in such patients receiving RTX for rheumatological disorders is not clear. We evaluated this risk in HBsAg-negative/anti-HBc-positive patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) undergoing RTX without prophylaxis. Methods. Thirty-three HBsAg-negative/anti-HBc-positive outpatients with RA with undetectable HBV DNA by sensitive PCR assay [73% women, median age 60 years, 85% with HBsAg antibodies (anti-HBs), 37% with antihepatitis B envelope antigen] received a median of 3 cycles of RTX (range 1-8) over 34 months (range 0-80) combined with disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARD) without prophylaxis. All underwent clinical and laboratory monitoring during and after RTX administration, including serum HBsAg and HBV DNA measurements every 6 months or whenever clinically indicated. Results. None of the patients seroreverted to HBsAg during RTX treatment, but 6/28 (21%) showed a > 50% decrease in protective anti-HBs levels, including 2 who became anti-HBs-negative. One patient (3%) who became HBV DNA-positive (44 IU/ml) after 6 months of RTX treatment was effectively rescued with lamivudine before any hepatitis flare occurred. Among the 14 patients monitored for 18 months (range 0-70) after RTX discontinuation, no HBV reactivation was observed. Conclusion. The administration of RTX + DMARD in patients with RA with resolved HBV infection leads to a negligible risk of HBV reactivation, thus suggesting that serum HBsAg and/or HBV DNA monitoring but not universal anti-HBV prophylaxis is justified.
- HBV DNA
- Hepatitis B virus reactivation
- Rheumatoid arthritis
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy