Tuberculosis and biologics in rheumatology: India – A special situation
India has a huge patient burden of rheumatic diseases (RDs) including rheumatoid arthritis. The use of biologics has transformed the treatment paradigm for RD; however, biologic treatment-related infections (especially tuberculosis [TB]) are an area of potential concern for TB-endemic nations like India. Anti-tumor necrosis factor (TNF) therapy impairs the physiological TNF-mediated signaling and may cause reactivation and dissemination of latent TB infection (LTBI). Careful screening is, thus, crucial in RD patients who are about to commence anti-TNF treatment. To date, there is no consensus available for the screening, evaluation and treatment of LTBI as well as on the drug dosage and duration regimen (monotherapy or combination therapy) in the Indian population. An evidence-based algorithm for LTBI screening and management in RD patients undergoing biologic disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drug therapy is suggested in this review for Indian rheumatologists. The proposed algorithm guides physicians through a step-wise screening approach, including medical history, tuberculin skin test, interferon gamma release assay, chest radiograph and management of LTBI with isoniazid therapy or its combination with rifampicin. Further, the provided algorithm can aid the national bodies (such as National TB Control Program) in formulating recommendations for LTBI in this high-risk population.