Patients with rheumatoid arthritis being treated with biologic therapies and who developed serious infections had a lower risk of sepsis.

Among the cohort, 1,017 serious infections were reported, with the most common being pneumonia, in 28.4%, bone and joint infections in 11.2%, and respiratory tract infections other than pneumonia in 10.3%.

A total of 11.7% progressed to sepsis within 1 month, and the case fatality rate was 63%. Among the patients whose infections did not lead to sepsis, the fatality rate was 6.2%.

Compared with the register cohort in general, patients who developed serious infections were older, had longer duration of disease and greater disease activity, as well as more comorbidities.

In a generalized estimating equations model, older age was associated with a higher risk of both sepsis (OR 1.41 for each 10 years, 95% CI 1.15 to 1.74) and death (OR 2.47, 95% CI 1.61 to 3.79). Underlying chronic renal disease also was associated with an increased risk of sepsis (OR 1.93, 95% CI 1.19 to 3.14), while heart failure was linked with a significantly higher mortality risk (OR 3.56, 95% CI 1.73 to 7.33).

Compared with conventional DMARDs, treatment specifically with a TNF inhibitor at the time of infection lowered the risk of sepsis (OR 0.64, 95% CI 0.42 to 0.97) and death (OR 0.48, 95% CI 0.24 to 0.95). Treatment with other biologic agents also was protective against sepsis (OR 0.45, 95% CI 0.25 to 0.80) and mortality (OR 0.16, 95% CI 0.05 to 0.54).

“The effective immunosuppression via biologic DMARDs may prevent an unregulated host response to serious infection and the development of sepsis,” Anja Strangfeld, MD, and colleagues stated.

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