Study finds no link between biologics and serious infection in moms or babies


An Arthritis Research Canada study, published in BMJ Open, has revealed use of biologics by women with autoimmune disease during pregnancy does not increase their risk of serious infections that require hospitalization after giving birth or their infants’ odds of experiencing serious infection requiring hospitalization in the first year of life.

Biologic medicines have revolutionized care for people with rheumatoid and inflammatory arthritis. But women with these types of arthritis are reluctant to consider pregnancy due to increased risk of infection in their newborns.nThis Arthritis Research Canada study reveals this fear of infection to be groundless. 

The study, which examined 10 years of data, found that among women exposed to biologics during pregnancy, occurrence of serious postpartum infections was low – ranging from zero to five per cent. And in infants exposed to biologics in utero, occurrence of serious infections during the first year of life ranged from zero to seven per cent.

“Biologics have revolutionized the management of several chronic autoimmune conditions like inflammatory arthritis,” said Dr. Mary De Vera, a research scientist at Arthritis Research Canada and senior author of the study. “It’s important to know that women can take these drugs without serious risks to their health or the health of their babies.”

Since biologics specifically target the immune system, understanding their connection to infection risk in mothers is important. Women are also more susceptible to infections during delivery and postpartum. Likewise, there are concerns over infections in infants exposed to biologics in utero due to evidence that certain biologics accumulate in cord blood.

According to Dr. John Esdaile, Scientific Director of Arthritis Research Canada, this research is important because it fills a knowledge gap that is critical to women considering pregnancy while using biologics.

“With improved management of rheumatic diseases, many more women with arthritis are considering pregnancy,” Dr. Esdaile said. “This research will help women make informed family decisions.”

The study included 6,218 women with autoimmune inflammatory disease diagnoses and 8,607 singleton pregnancies. In that group, 90 women were exposed to biologics during pregnancy, and 100 babies were born to these women. This is the first peer-reviewed journal publication to look at the connection between biologics use and infections in both mothers and their infants. Previous research has only studied the impact on mothers.


To view the study, please click here.  



Arthritis Research Canada is the largest clinical arthritis research centre in North America. Our mission is to transform the lives of people living with arthritis through research and engagement. Led by world-renowned rheumatologist, Dr. John Esdaile, Arthritis Research Canada’s scientific team of over 100 are creating a future where people living with arthritis are empowered to triumph over pain and disability. Within British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec, Arthritis Research Canada is leading research aimed at arthritis prevention, early diagnosis and treatment, and quality of life issues.  


For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:  

Heather Caulder

Marketing and Communications Coordinator

Arthritis Research Canada

604-207-4010 or hcaulder@arthritisresearch.ca

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