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Joint Bone Spine
Volume 83, n° 2
pages 191-197 (mars 2016)
Doi : 10.1016/j.jbspin.2015.05.012
accepted : 14 May 2015
Low pre-treatment B-cell counts are not a risk factor of infection in patients treated with rituximab for autoimmune diseases: An observational study

Ilias Lazarou a, , Axel Finckh a, Lara Fischer b, Camillo Ribi b, Danielle Gascon a, Jörg D. Seebach b, Pierre-André Guerne a
a Division of Rheumatology, University Hospital and Medical Faculty of Geneva, 26, avenue Beau-Séjour, 1206 Geneva, Switzerland 
b Division of Immunology and Allergology, University Hospital and Medical Faculty of Geneva, 1206 Geneva, Switzerland 

Corresponding author.

Rituximab (RTX) is increasingly used in patients with refractory rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and other severe autoimmune diseases (AID). In practice, many clinicians are reluctant to prescribe RTX in patients with low B-cell counts because of the presumed risk of infection. The aim of this study was therefore to investigate whether B-cell counts before treatment or retreatment with RTX predict the occurrence of infections.


Observational, single-centre study of 161 patients treated with RTX for RA and other AID at a tertiary hospital. CD19+ B-cell counts were assessed by flow cytometry and multivariate statistical analysis adjusted for various potential predictors was performed.


The rate of severe infection was 5.9/100 patient-years in RA patients and 24.9 in non-RA AID (P <0.001). Low B-cell counts at the time of RTX infusion were not associated with subsequent severe (HR=0.55, P =0.60) or overall infection (HR=0.85, P =0.58). Significant pre-treatment predictors of severe infection were a diagnosis other than RA (HR=4.68, P <0.001), immunoglobulin (Ig) G levels <7g/L (HR=2.36, P =0.01), age (HR=1.03, P =0.01), and diabetes (HR=3.61, P =0.01).


Low B-cell counts before RTX infusion did not predict subsequent infections in this population treated with RTX for RA and other AID, therefore not supporting the practice of pre-treatment assessment of B-cells. Nevertheless, a higher risk of severe infection was confirmed for low pre-treatment IgG levels, older age, diabetes, and AID other than RA.

The full text of this article is available in PDF format.

Keywords : Rituximab, Rheumatoid arthritis, Autoimmune disease, Infection, B-cells

© 2015  Société française de rhumatologie@@#104156@@
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