Background: Rituximab is a B-cell depleting agent used in B-cell malignancies and autoimmune diseases. A subset of adult patients may develop prolonged and symptomatic hypogammaglobulinemia following rituximab treatment. However, this phenomenon has not been well delineated in the pediatric population.
Objectives: This study sought to determine the prevalence, risk factors, and clinical significance of hypogammaglobulinemia following rituximab therapy in children.
Methods: This was a multicenter, retrospective cohort study that extracted clinical and immunological data from pediatric patients who received rituximab.
Results: The cohort comprised 207 patients (median age, 12.0 years). Compared to baseline values, there was a significant increase in hypogammaglobulinemia post-rituximab therapy, with an increase in prevalence of hypo-IgG (28.7%-42.6%; P = .009), hypo-IgA (11.1%-20.4%; P = .02), and hypo-IgM (20.0%-62.0%; P < .0001). Additionally, low IgG levels at any time post-rituximab therapy were associated with a higher risk of serious infections (34.4% vs 18.9%; odds ratio, 2.3; 95% CI, 1.1-4.8; P = .03). Persistent IgG hypogammaglobulinemia was observed in 27 of 101 evaluable patients (26.7%). Significant risk factors for persistent IgG hypogammaglobulinemia included low IgG and IgA levels pre-rituximab therapy. Nine patients (4.3%) within the study were subsequently diagnosed with a primary immunodeficiency, 7 of which received rituximab for autoimmune cytopenias.
Conclusions: Hypogammaglobulinemia post-rituximab treatment is frequently diagnosed within the pediatric population. Low IgG levels are associated with a significant increase in serious infections, and underlying primary immunodeficiencies are relatively common in children receiving rituximab, thus highlighting the importance of immunologic monitoring both before and after rituximab therapy.
Keywords: B-cell depleting therapy; IgG; children; hypogammaglobulinemia; immunoglobulin; infection; pediatrics; primary immunodeficiency; rituximab; secondary immunodeficiency.
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