Twenty-eight patients with low-moderate, stable rheumatoid arthritis (RA), under treatment with tumor necrosis factor (TNF) alpha blockers, were immunized at least once with non-adjuvanted trivalent influenza vaccine during three consecutive influenza seasons. Antibodies toward A influenza antigens significantly increased and reached protective levels, still detectable 6 months after vaccination, both in RA patients and healthy controls. Response to B antigen instead was only observed from the second year for healthy controls and in the third year for patients. No significant difference in disease activity and anti-nuclear antibodies was observed as a consequence of vaccine administration, whereas T regulatory cells showed a significant increase 30 days after immunization in RA patients. This study confirms safety of influenza vaccine administration in RA patients treated with TNFalpha blockers. The cohort follow-up revealed the overcoming of poor B vaccine antigen immunogenicity via repeated vaccinations. Finally, protective antibody response was still observed 6 months after vaccination.
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