Infectious complications of rituximab therapy in renal disease

Andrew Nixon, Leanne Ogden, Alexander Woywodt, Ajay Dhaygude

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Rituximab, an anti-CD20 monoclonal antibody, was originally used to treat B-cell malignancies. Its use has significantly increased in recent years, as it is now also used to treat a variety of autoimmune diseases including rheumatoid arthritis and ANCA-associated vasculitis (AAV). Initial studies suggested that the adverse effects of rituximab were minimal. Though the risk of malignancy with rituximab-based immunosuppressive regimens appears similar to that of the general population, there are now concerns regarding the risk of infectious complications. Rituximab has been associated with serious infections, including Pneumocystis jiroveci pneumonia (PJP) and the reactivation of hepatitis B virus (HBV) and tuberculosis (TB). The risk of infection appears to be the result of a variety of mechanisms, including prolonged B-cell depletion, B-cell-T-cell crosstalk, panhypogammaglobulinaemia, late-onset neutropenia and blunting of the immune response after vaccination. Importantly, the risk of infectious complications is also related to individual patient characteristics and the indication for rituximab. Individualization of treatment is, therefore, crucial. Particular attention should be given to strategies to minimize the risk of infectious complications, including vaccinating against bacterial and viral pathogens, monitoring white cell count and immunoglobulin levels, prophylaxis against PJP and screening for HBV and TB.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)455
Number of pages460
JournalCKJ: Clinical Kidney Journal
Early online date6 Jul 2017
Publication statusPublished - 10 Aug 2017


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