“Explain It To Me Like I’m a Six Year Old”

Sometimes when I read an article, I wish it was presented in a much simpler manner.  In the movie “Philadelphia,” the lawyer played by Denzel Washington tells his clients to “explain it to me like I’m a six-year-old.”

A recent clinical report (MI Ardura et al. JPGN 2016; 63: 130-55) probably would have benefitted from this idea to some degree.  This report examines infectious disease issues with regard to patients receiving tumor necrosis factor-α (TNFα) inhibitors.  All in all, it is very thorough and reviews more than 20 infectious agents (bacteria, fungi, mycobacteria, and viral agents).

Table 2 is most helpful.  In this table, the authors recommend that before starting TNF inhibitors:

  • Risk factor screening for Brucella (eg exposure to animals, unpasteurized dairy products), Bartonella (eg exposure to kitten), Listeria (eg dietary history), Salmonella (eg exposure to reptiles), Aspergillus (eg exposure to construction), coccidioidomycosis (exposure to endemic area), Histoplasma (long list of exposures listed in Table 3 includes barns, caves, chicken coops, old buildings), and Hepatitis C virus
  • Direct testing is recommended for Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Hepatitis B virus, HIV (≥ 13 yrs if in hospital or ≥15 years), and Varicella zoster virus

Table 4 lists recommended vaccines.  For live virus vaccines, the authors recommend to avoid unless they can be administered at least 4 weeks prior to immunosuppressive therapy.

Other useful information:

  • “Granulomatous infections caused by bacteria, mycobacteria, and fungi are the most frequently  described infections in patients receiving anti-TNFα therapies.”
  • Infection rates of 239/100,000 reported with infliximab between 1998-2002.
  • More than 70% of these infections occurred within 3 to 6 months of starting infliximab therapy, “suggesting the possibility of reactivation of latent infection.”
  • M tuberculosis was most common (54/100,000)
  • “In general, anti-TNFα therapy should be discontinued during any severe infection.”

My take: This report offers a lot of information. Its impact on daily practice would be much greater if the authors created a simple one-sheet screening questionnaire form with recommended bloodwork and vaccines.

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