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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Persistence of antibody response 1.5 years after vaccination using 7-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine in patients with arthritis treated with different antirheumatic drugs

Meliha Crnkic Kapetanovic1*, Tore Saxne1, Lennart Truedsson2 and Pierre Geborek1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Clinical Sciences, Lund, Section of Rheumatology, Skåne University Hospital, Kioskgatan 3, Lund, SE-221 85 Sweden

2 Department of Laboratory Medicine, Section of Microbiology and Immunology, Lund University, Entrégatan 5, Lund, SE-22 185 Sweden

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Arthritis Research & Therapy 2013, 15:R1  doi:10.1186/ar4127

Published: 4 January 2013



The aim of this study was to explore the persistence of an antibody response 1.5 years after vaccination with 7-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) or spondyloarthropathy (SpA) treated with different antirheumatic drugs.


Of 505 patients initially recruited, data on current antirheumatic treatment and blood samples were obtained from 398 (79%) subjects after mean (SD, range) 1.4 (0.5; 1 to 2) years. Antibody levels against pneumococcal serotypes 23F and 6B were analyzed by using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Original treatment groups were as follows: (a) RA receiving methotrexate (MTX); (b) RA taking anti-TNF monotherapy; (c) RA taking anti-TNF+MTX; (d) SpA with anti-TNF monotherapy; (e) SpA taking anti-TNF+MTX; and (f) SpA taking NSAID/analgesics. Geometric mean levels (GMLs; 95% CI) and proportion (percentage) of patients with putative protective antibody levels ≥1 mg/L for both serotypes, calculated in different treatment groups, were compared with results 4 to 6 weeks after vaccination. Patients remaining on initial treatment were included in the analysis. Possible predictors of persistence of protective antibody response were analysed by using logistic regression analysis.


Of 398 patients participating in the 1.5-year follow up, 302 patients (RA, 163, and SpA, 139) had unchanged medication. Compared with postvaccination levels at 1.5 years, GMLs for each serotype were significantly lower in all groups (P between 0.035 and <0.001; paired-sample t test), as were the proportions of patients with protective antibody levels for both serotypes (P < 0.001; χ2 test). Higher prevaccination antibody levels for both serotypes 23F and 6B were associated with better persistence of protective antibodies (P < 0.001). Compared with patients with protective antibody levels at 1.5 years, those not having protective antibody levels were older, more often women, had longer disease duration and higher HAQ and DAS, and had a lower proportion of initial responders to both serotypes.

Concomitant anti-TNF treatment and MTX were identified as negative predictors of the persistence of protective antibodies among RA patients (P = 0.024 and P = 0.065, respectively). Only age 65 years or older (P = 0.017) and not antirheumatic treatment was found to be a negative predictor of protective antibodies in patients with SpA.


After initial increase, 1.5 years after pneumococcal vaccination with 7-valent conjugate vaccine, postvaccination antibody levels decreased significantly, reaching levels before vaccination in this cohort of patients with established arthritis treated with different antirheumatic drugs. MTX and anti-TNF treatment predicted low persistence of protective immunity among patients with RA. To boost antibody response, early revaccination with conjugate vaccine might be needed in patients receiving potent immunosuppressive remedies.

Trial registration number

EudraCT EU 2007-006539-29 and NCT00828997.