Clinical Rheumatology

, Volume 36, Issue 2, pp 457–461 | Cite as

The conversion rate of tuberculosis screening tests during biological therapies in patients with rheumatoid arthritis

  • Giovanna CuomoEmail author
  • Virginia D’Abrsca
  • Daniela Iacono
  • Ilenia Pantano
Brief Report


Screening for active tuberculosis (TB) and latent TB infection (LTBI) is mandatory to the initiation of biological therapy in patients with rheumatic diseases. To determine the prevalence of LTBI in patients with rheumatoid arthritis before treatment with biological therapy (anti-TNF, abatacept, and tocilizumab) and the rate of TB conversion during treatment in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients, we evaluated the file of 275 patients with RA treated with biological agents. We considered patients with negative baseline TB screening (tuberculin skin test (TST); quantiferon TB gold in tube (QFT-GIT); chest x-ray) and with rescreening for a TB assay every year. Twenty-six patients (10.6%) resulted positive to TB screening at baseline. Two hundred and forty-nine patients (mean age 55.3 ± 11.9; median 55.8 years, range 16–81.9; 210 female) with TB screening negative at baseline were enrolled. One hundred and sixty-eight (67.5%) patients were treated with anti-TNF, 37 (14.9%) patients with abatacept, and 44 (17.7%) patients with tocilizumab. After a period of 12–120 months (median 24), 34 (13.6%) patients displayed conversion of at least one screening assay. Out of the 34 patients with conversion, 6 (16.2%) were treated with abatacept, 7 (15.9%) with tocilizumab, and 21 (12.5%) with anti-TNF. During the follow-up period, no patients developed active TB. Our study shows that a proportion of patients (13.6%) converts at least one TB screening assay during biological therapy. This study underscores the American College of Rheumatology advice for annual screening in some or all biologically treated patients.


Abatacept Anti-TNF Latent tuberculosis Quantiferon Rheumatoid arthritis Tocilizumab Tuberculin test 


Compliance with ethical standards



Informed consent

“Additional informed consent was obtained from all individual participants for whom identifying information is included in this article.”


This study was not funded.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.


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Copyright information

© International League of Associations for Rheumatology (ILAR) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Giovanna Cuomo
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Virginia D’Abrsca
    • 1
  • Daniela Iacono
    • 1
  • Ilenia Pantano
    • 1
  1. 1.Dipartimento Medico-Chirurgico di Internistica Clinica e Sperimentale “F. Magrassi - A. Lanzara”Seconda Università degli Studi di NapoliNaplesItaly
  2. 2.Department of Internal and Experimental Rheumatology, Rheumatology UnitNaplesItaly

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