Hepatitis B Serology in Patients with Rheumatic Diseases

The Open Rheumatology Journal 31 Aug 2016 RESEARCH ARTICLE DOI: 10.2174/1874312901610010039



Only limited data are available on the prevalence of hepatitis B in patients with proven rheumatic diseases and thus the risk of reactivation under immunosuppressive therapy.


To analyse hepatitis B serology in patients with rheumatic diseases prior to therapy.


In total, 1,338 patient records were analysed for HBsAg, HBsAb and HBcAb in a cross-sectional, single-centre study between 2011 and 2015 at first presentation. Data acquisition was realized using electronic patient files created during routine care. The main variables considered as predictors for HBV reactivation included (i) the exact type of rheumatic disease and (ii) the therapeutically induced immunosuppression.


Overall, 5.9% of patients (n=79) had proven contact with hepatitis B (HBcAb positive), and HBsAb were not detected in 1.3% (n=18). The rate of vaccinated subjects was 7.8%. HBsAg was detected in 3 patients (0.2%). In addition, 70.3% of patients were treated during the course of rheumatologic disease previously or currently with glucocorticoids, 85.2% with disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and 20.1% with a biologic agent (e.g., anti-IL-6, anti-TNFalpha, anti-CD20, CTLA4Ig or anti-IL-12/23).


Prevalence of hepatitis B serostatus in the analysed rheumatic patients regarding HBs-Ag and HBcAb with or without HBsAb prior to therapy does not differ from the data published for the general population in Germany. However, the rate of hepatitis B vaccinated patients was lower. In general, a significant portion of patients (5.9%) has been exposed to HBV and therefore exhibited an increased risk of reactivation of hepatitis B when undergoing immunosuppressive therapy.

Keywords: HBcAb, HBsAb, HBsAg, HBV, Hepatitis B, Immunosuppression, Reactivation, Rheumatic disease.
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