Review article: chronic viral infection in the anti-tumour necrosis factor therapy era in inflammatory bowel disease

Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2010 Jan;31(1):20-34. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2036.2009.04112.x.


Background: Anti-tumour necrosis factor (TNF) therapy is now well established in the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease and the risk of opportunistic infection is recognized. However, specific considerations regarding screening, detection, prevention and treatment of chronic viral infections in the context of anti-TNF therapy in inflammatory bowel disease are not widely adopted in practice.

Aim: To provide a detailed and comprehensive review of the relevance of chronic viral infections in the context of anti-TNF therapy in inflammatory bowel disease.

Methods: Literature search was conducted using Medline, Pubmed and Embase using the terms viral infection, hepatitis, herpes, CMV, EBV, HPV, anti-TNF, infliximab, adalimumab, certolizumab pegol and etanercept. Hepatitis B and C and HIV had the largest literature associated and these have been summarized in Tables.

Results: Particular risks are associated with the use of anti-TNF drugs in patients with hepatitis B infection, in whom reactivation is common unless anti-viral prophylaxis is used. Reactivation of herpes zoster is the most common viral problem associated with anti-TNF treatment, and may be particularly severe. Primary varicella infection may present with atypical features in patients on anti-TNF.

Conclusion: Appreciation of risks of chronic viral disease associated with anti-TNF therapy may permit early recognition, prophylaxis and treatment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Disease
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / adverse effects
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / complications
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Opportunistic Infections / chemically induced*
  • Opportunistic Infections / drug therapy
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Recurrence
  • Risk Factors
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / adverse effects
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Virus Activation
  • Virus Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Virus Diseases / etiology


  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha