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Previous studies have revealed that hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection may be associated with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), while there are no further clinical studies regarding the role of HBV infection in RA progression during disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drug (DMARD) therapy. Here, we aimed to explore the influence of HBV infection on radiographic and clinical outcomes among patients with RA in a clinical practice setting.
Thirty-two consecutive patients with RA (Disease Activity Score 28-joint assessment based on C-reactive protein (DAS28-CRP) ≥2.6) with chronic HBV infection (CHB) were retrospectively recruited as the CHB group and 128 age-matched, sex-matched, and disease activity-matched contemporary patients with RA without CHB were included in the non-CHB group. Clinical data were collected at baseline and visits at month 1, 3, 6, and 12. The therapeutic target was defined as DAS28-CRP <2.6 in all patients or <3.2 in patients with long disease duration (>24 months). The primary outcome was the percentage of patients with one-year radiographic progression (a change in modified total Sharp score ≥0.5).
Compared with the non-CHB group, a significantly higher percentage of patients with one-year radiographic progression was observed in the CHB group (53% vs. 17%, p < 0.001), with smaller proportions of patients achieving therapeutic target at month 6 and month 12 (53% vs. 82% and 53% vs. 75%, both p < 0.05), remission at month 6 (DAS28-CRP <2.6, 50% vs. 72%, p = 0.039), and American College of Rheumatology (ACR)20/50 responses and good or moderate European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) responses mainly at month 6 and 12 (all p < 0.05). Multivariate logistic regression analysis revealed that CHB status was significantly associated with one-year radiographic progression and failure to achieve therapeutic target within 6 months. HBV reactivation occurred in 34% of patients with CHB during one-year follow up, with two patients suffering hepatitis flare.
HBV infection may play a deleterious role in radiographic and clinical outcomes in patients with RA, and HBV reactivation should be paid close attention during immunosuppressive therapy.