Autoimmunity associated with anti-tumor necrosis factor alpha treatment in Crohn's disease: a prospective cohort study

Gastroenterology. 2003 Jul;125(1):32-9. doi: 10.1016/s0016-5085(03)00701-7.


Background & aims: Infliximab therapy is an effective approach to treating Crohn's disease. Development of antinuclear antibodies has been described in patients treated, but the size of the problem and the relationship with autoimmunity have not been investigated. We investigated the occurrence of antinuclear antibodies in 125 consecutive Crohn's disease patients and studied the relationship with symptoms of autoimmunity.

Methods: Autoantibodies and clinical data were investigated before and 1, 2, and 3 months after infliximab infusion. If antinuclear antibodies were > or =1:80, further study of double-stranded DNA, single-stranded DNA, histones, and ENA was performed.

Results: Cumulative antinuclear antibody incidence at 24 months was 71 of 125 (56.8%). Almost half of these patients developed antinuclear antibodies after the first infusion, and >75% became antinuclear antibody positive after fewer than 3 infusions. So far, only 15 of 71 patients have become seronegative, after a median of 12 months. Of 43 antinuclear antibody-positive patients who were further subtyped, 14 of 43 (32.6%) had double-stranded DNA, 17 (39.5%) had single-stranded DNA, 9 (20.9%) had antihistone, and 0% were ENA positive. Two patients (both antihistone and double-stranded DNA positive) developed drug-induced lupus without major organ damage, and 1 developed autoimmune hemolytic anemia. Antinuclear antibodies were associated with the female sex (odds ratio, 3.166; 95% confidence interval, 1.167-8.585; P = 0.024) and with papulosquamous or butterfly rash (odds ratio, 10.016; 95% confidence interval, 1.708-58.725; P = 0.011).

Conclusions: The cumulative incidence of antinuclear antibodies was 56.8% after 24 months in this cohort of infliximab-treated Crohn's disease patients. Antinuclear antibodies persisted up to 1 year after the last infusion, and only a few patients became seronegative. Two patients developed drug-induced lupus erythematosus. Antinuclear antibodies were associated with the female sex and skin manifestations.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antibodies, Antinuclear / blood
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / administration & dosage*
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / adverse effects
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / immunology
  • Crohn Disease / drug therapy*
  • Crohn Disease / immunology*
  • DNA / immunology
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Gastrointestinal Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Gastrointestinal Agents / adverse effects
  • Gastrointestinal Agents / immunology
  • Humans
  • Infliximab
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / antagonists & inhibitors*


  • Antibodies, Antinuclear
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Gastrointestinal Agents
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • DNA
  • Infliximab