B Cell Therapies, Approved and Emerging: a Review of Infectious Risk and Prevention During Use

Md Yuzaiful Md Yusof, Edward M Vital, Maya H Buch

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The development of B cell-targeted biologics represents a major advance in the treatment of autoimmune rheumatic diseases. As with other immunosuppressive agents, risk of infection is a key clinical concern. This review summarises safety data from 15 years of experience of rituximab in autoimmune diseases with a particular focus on opportunistic infection and class-specific complications and infection risk. Rarely, cases of progressive multifocal leucoencephalopathy in rituximab-treated patients (5/100 000) have accumulated over time although no proven causal association has yet been shown. With repeat cycles of therapy, hypogammaglobulinaemia has been observed in a larger proportion of patients and is associated with increased risk of serious infections. The infection profile of the newer B cell-targeted agent, belimumab, in patients with active systemic lupus erythematosus is also discussed. Data from registries are needed to extend insights further and also to evaluate for any impact with the difference in mode of action of belimumab and infection risk in this population.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65
JournalCurrent Rheumatology Reports
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2015


  • Antiviral Agents/therapeutic use
  • Autoimmune Diseases/drug therapy
  • B-Lymphocytes/drug effects
  • Humans
  • Immunocompromised Host
  • Immunosuppressive Agents/adverse effects
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy/adverse effects
  • Opportunistic Infections/immunology
  • Rheumatic Diseases/drug therapy
  • Risk Factors
  • Vaccination


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