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Challenges in screening for latent tuberculosis in inflammatory bowel disease prior to biologic treatment: a UK cohort study


Objective The aim of this study was to determine the occurrence of latent tuberculosis infections (LTBI) and active TB in a cohort of patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) treated with biologics. We also examined the effects of immunosuppressive drugs on indeterminate interferon-gamma release assays (IGRA) in LTBI screening.

Design Retrospective study of patients treated with biologics between March 2007 and November 2015.

Setting St Mark’s Hospital, North West London, UK.

Patients 732 patients with IBD who were screened for LTBI using either tuberculin skin test or IGRA before starting a biologic treatment.

Methods Retrospective case note review of all patients with IBD who were screened for LTBI prior to initiating biologics. Patients who developed active TB were identified from the London TB register.

Results Of 732 patients with IBD, 31 (4.2%) were diagnosed with and treated for LTBI with no significant side effects. Six of 596 patients (1.0%) who received biologic treatment developed active TB. There was a higher proportion of indeterminate IGRA in the immunosuppressive medication group compared with the non-immunosuppressive group (33% (59/181) compared with 9% (6/66), p<0.001). The combination of steroids and thiopurines had the highest proportion of indeterminate IGRA (64%, 16/25). High and low doses of steroids were equally likely to result in an indeterminate IGRA result (67% (8/12) and 57% (4/7), respectively).

Conclusions This study highlights the challenges of LTBI screening prior to commencing biologic therapy and demonstrates the risk of TB in patients who have been screened and who are receiving prolonged and continuing doses of antitumour necrosis factor.

  • ibd
  • crohn’s disease
  • ulcerative colitis
  • infliximab

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