Anne Bass, MD: Screening for Tuberculosis Before Starting Biologics

Anne Bass, MD, rheumatologist at the Hospital for Special Surgery and professor of clinical medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine, explains why screening patients for tuberculosis before initiating biologic therapy is key.


Why is screening for tuberculosis before initiating treatment with a drug like infliximab so important?

Infliximab is a tumor necrosis factor inhibitor, and these agents interfere with the body’s ability to defend against certain kinds of infections, particularly viral infections and infections like [tuberculosis, TB].

Some people, particularly in Europe or people from the Caribbean, have been exposed to TB in the past, even if they didn’t actually have TB. A small amount of the bacteria stays latent in the lungs, and if you take a medicine like infliximab, the TB can become reactivated.

So, you want to make sure to know if they’ve been exposed to TB so that they can be given treatment, and then subsequently be able to take a medicine like infliximab.