Non-typhi Salmonella infection in patients with rheumatic diseases on TNF-alpha antagonist therapy

Clin Exp Rheumatol. 2009 Nov-Dec;27(6):920-5.


Objectives: The morbidity and mortality of patients with rheumatic diseases has improved considerably following the use of biologic therapies. However, an increase in the frequency of bacterial infections has been observed in patients receiving these drugs. In the present study we aimed to establish the incidence and clinical manifestations of non-typhi Salmonella infection in a large cohort of patients with rheumatic diseases undergoing TNF-alpha antagonist therapy due to severe rheumatic diseases refractory to conventional therapies.

Methods: The rate of non-typhi Salmonella infection found in the Spanish Registry of Adverse Events of Biological Therapies in Rheumatic Diseases (BIOBADASER) was compared with that observed in a cohort of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients from the EMECAR (Morbidity and Clinical Expression of Rheumatoid Arthritis) Study, who were not treated with TNF-alpha antagonists. The rate found in the BIOBADASER registry was also compared with that available in a non-RA historic control cohort reported in a population from Huesca (Northern Spain).

Results: Seventeen cases of non-typhi Salmonella infection were observed in the series of patients exposed to anti-TNF-alpha therapies. The incidence rate of non-typhi Salmonella in BIOBADASER was 0.73 per 1000 patient-years (95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.45-1.17). The incidence rate in the EMECAR cohort was 0.44 per 1000 patient-years. The relative risk for non-typhi salmonellosis in RA patients exposed to TNF-alpha inhibitors compared to those not treated with biological therapies was 2.07 (95% CI: 0.27-15.73) (p=0.480) whereas the relative risk of non-typhi Salmonella infections in patients with rheumatic diseases undergoing TNF-alpha antagonist therapy compared with the non-RA Spanish control cohort was 0.63 (95% CI: 0.38-1.04) (p=0.07). Nine of the 17 patients with non-typhi salmonellosis presented a severe systemic infection.

Conclusion: Incidence of non-typhi Salmonella infection is not increased significantly in rheumatic patients undergoing anti-TNF-alpha therapy when compared with RA patients undergoing conventional DMARD therapy or with the general population. Nevertheless, at least 50% of patients on TNF-alpha have severe complications once they develop non-typhi Salmonella infection. This fact suggests that anti-TNF-alpha therapies may predispose to salmonella dissemination rather than to infection.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / adverse effects
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / therapeutic use*
  • Antirheumatic Agents / adverse effects
  • Antirheumatic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Registries
  • Rheumatic Diseases / complications
  • Rheumatic Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Rheumatic Diseases / therapy
  • Salmonella Infections / complications
  • Salmonella Infections / epidemiology*
  • Spain / epidemiology
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / therapeutic use


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antirheumatic Agents
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha