Background: Behcet's disease (BD) is a chronic relapsing multisystem inflammatory disorder with mucocutaneous, ocular, articular, vascular, gastrointestinal and central nervous system manifestations. Tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha is believed to play a pivotal role in BD. Therapeutic blockade of the activity of TNF has been successfully given in a short course of therapy with favorable effects in patients with BD refractory to conventional immunosuppressive drugs. We aimed to find out whether a 12-month treatment with infliximab, a chimeric monoclonal antibody to TNF-alpha, had any beneficial effect in reducing relapses of a patient with long-standing BD refractory to conventional immunosuppressive drugs.
Case presentation: A 54 year-old-woman with a 35-year history of BD with orogenital ulcerations, arthritis in the right knee and retinal lesions compatible with vasculitis received infliximab, 5 mg/kg by a two-hour intravenous infusion. Symptoms improved within 24 hours and eight days later the genital and oral ulcers healed as well as the arthritis in the right knee subsided. The retinal infiltrates completely resolved within 10 days. The infusions were repeated at weeks 2, 6, 14, 22 and then every 8 weeks. The patient was able to return to her domestic daily life. No exacerbation of the mucocutaneous ocular or arthritic symptoms occurred during the treatment period.
Conclusions: Previous studies have suggested that infliximab given in a short course of treatment is effective in inducing remission of severe mucocutaneous, gastrointestinal and ocular manifestations of BD. Our patient received a 12-month infliximab treatment showing a favorable effect on remission of BD manifestations. The long-term infliximab treatment appears as a new therapeutic option for patients with active BD who failed to respond to conventional immunosuppressive agents.