Does my patient testing positive for hepatitis A IgM really have acute hepatitis A infection even though he is completely asymptomatic?

Not necessarily! A positive hepatitis A (HA) IgM in a patient without any symptoms could indicate a few different things: 1. Asymptomatic infection; 2. Prior HA infection with prolonged IgM presence; 3. False positive results due to cross-reacting antibodies; and 4. Commercial kits with a falsely low cutoff value.1

A 2013 retrospective study found that of patients testing positive for HA IgM antibody, only 11% could be confirmed to have acute HA infection; 57% had recent and/or resolved hepatitis and 29% had reasons to have elevated hepatic enzymes other than HA infection, at least some likely to be false-positive.1

Other viral illnesses and autoimmune conditions have been associated with false positive HA-IgM.1-3  One case report described a patient with malaise, fever, jaundice, and elevated liver enzymes who tested positive for HA-IgM but ultimately was found to be infected with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)2. In another case report, a patient was described as having a drug-induced liver injury in the setting of infliximab usage. False positive Hep A IgM was suspected to be due to a polyclonal B-cell autoimmune-mediated response stimulated by the infliximab.3

So, even a positive HA-IgM should always be interpreted in the context of the patient’s history and likelihood of active HA infection based on epidemiological factors.1

Bonus Pearl: Did you know that modes of transmission of HA include person-to-person via saliva or sex, consuming raw/undercooked shellfish, or drinking contaminated drinking water?4

Contributed by Joseph Kinsella, Medical Student, A.T. Still Osteopathic Medical School,  Kirksville, Missouri

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References

  1. Alatoom A., Ansari M. Q, Cuthbert J. (2013). Multiple factors contribute to positive results for hepatitis a virus immunoglobulin M antibody. Arch Pathol Lab Med 2013;137:90–95. https://doi.org/10.5858/arpa.2011-0693-oa
  2. Valota M, Thienemann F, Misselwitz B. False-positive serologies for acute hepatitis A and autoimmune hepatitis in a patient with acute Epstein–Barr virus infection. BMJ Case Reports CP 2019;12: e228356.
  3. Tennant E, Post JJ. Production of false-positive immunoglobulin m antibodies to hepatitis a virus in autoimmune events. J Infect Dis 2016;213: 324–325. https://doi.org/10.1093/infdis/jiv417
  4. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2020, August 28). Hepatitis A. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hepatitis-a/symptoms-causes/syc-20367007.

Disclosures: The listed questions and answers are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of Mercy Hospital-St. Louis or its affiliate healthcare centers, Mass General Hospital, Harvard Medical School or its affiliated institutions. Although every effort has been made to provide accurate information, the author is far from being perfect. The reader is urged to verify the content of the material with other sources as deemed appropriate and exercise clinical judgment in the interpretation and application of the information provided herein. No responsibility for an adverse outcome or guarantees for a favorable clinical result is assumed by the author. Thank you!

Does my patient testing positive for hepatitis A IgM really have acute hepatitis A infection even though he is completely asymptomatic?

Is Covid-19 vaccine effective in immunocompromised patients?

The short answer is that we don’t have any solid data on the performance of Covid-19 among immunocompromised (IC) patients at this time because the large trials used to clear the available vaccines for FDA Emergency Use Authorization essentially excluded IC subjects (1,2). 

However, despite a potentially blunted response, the immunogenicity of the Covid-19 vaccine may be sufficient to reduce the risk of serious disease. The CDC and the American Society of Clinical Oncologists support Covid-19 vaccination of IC patients as long as there are no contraindications and patients are counseled about the uncertainty in vaccine efficacy and safety in this particular population (3,4).

 For patients undergoing treatment for cancer, the ASCO believes that Covid-19 vaccine may be offered in the absence of any contraindications.  To reduce the risk of Covid-19 while retaining vaccine efficacy, it recommends that the vaccine be given between cycles of therapy and after “appropriate waiting periods” for those receiving stem cell transplants and immunoglobulin therapy (4).

Previous experience with pneumococcal and influenza vaccine in IC patients have reported frequent suboptimal immunological response (2). Concomitant treatment with infliximab or other immunomodulatory drugs have had a negative impact on seroconversion after influenza vaccination. Similarly, in patients with Crohn’s on immunosuppressives, immune response to polysaccharide pneumococcal vaccine has been blunted (2). 

Nevertheless, the benefits of vaccination may still outweigh any risks of adverse events in this population. In fact, the CDC routine vaccination schedule for adults includes immunocompromised patients (5).  

At this time, given the seriousness of the Covid-19 pandemic and higher risk of severe disease among many IC patients, offering Covid-19 vaccine to these patients (with aforementioned caveats) seems prudent. 

 

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References

  1. Kumar A, Quraishi MN, Segal JP, et al. Covid-19 vaccinations in patients with inflammatory bowel disease. Lancet 2020;4:965-6. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/langas/article/PIIS2468-1253(20)30295-8/fulltext
  2. Polack FP, Thomas SJ, Ktichin N, et al. Safety and efficacy of the BNT162b2 mRNA Covid-19 vaccine. N Engl J Med 2020;383:2603-15. https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa2034577
  3. Interim clinical considerations for use of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines currently authorized in the United States. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/covid-19/info-by-product/clinical-considerations.html. Accessed Feb 14, 2021.
  4. American Society of Clinical Oncologists. Covid-19 vaccine and patients with cancer.. https://www.asco.org/asco-coronavirus-resources/covid-19-patient-care-information/covid-19-vaccine-patients-cancer Accessed Feb 14, 2021
  5. CDC. Immunization schedules. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/hcp/imz/adult.html Accessed Feb 14, 2021.  

Disclosures: The listed questions and answers are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of Mercy healthcare centers, or its contributors. Although every effort has been made to provide accurate information, the author is far from being perfect. The reader is urged to verify the content of the material with other sources as deemed appropriate and exercise clinical judgment in the interpretation and application of the information provided herein. No responsibility for an adverse outcome or guarantees for a favorable clinical result is assumed by the author. Thank you!

Is Covid-19 vaccine effective in immunocompromised patients?

Should my hospitalized patient with ulcerative colitis flare-up receive pneumococcal vaccination?

There are at least 2 reasons for considering pneumococcal vaccination in hospitalized patients with ulcerative colitis flare.

First, these patients are often on immunosuppressants (eg, glucocorticoids) or biological agents (eg, infliximab) that qualifies them for both 13-valent conjugate (PCV13) and 23-valent polysaccharide (PPSV23) pneumococcal vaccines under the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) Guidelines’ “Immunocompromised persons” risk group.1-4

Another reason is the possibility of  UC patients having coexisting hyposplenism, a major risk factor for pneumococcal disease. Although this association has been described several times in the literature since 1970s, it is relatively less well known.  In a study of patients with UC, hyposplenism (either by the presence of Howell-Jolly bodies in the peripheral blood smear or prolongation of clearance from blood of injected radioactively labelled heat-damaged red blood cells) was found in over one-third with some developing life-threatening septicemia in the early postcolectomy period.5

Another study found the majority of patients with UC having slow clearance of heat damaged RBCs despite absence of Howell-Jolly bodies in the peripheral smear.6 Fulminant and fatal pneumococcal sepsis has also been reported in patients with UC.7

Although the immunological response to pneumococcal vaccination may be lower among immunosuppressed patients in general, including those with UC, it should still be administered to this population given its potential benefit in reducing the risk of serious pneumococcal disease. 2,3  

References

  1. CDC. Intervals between PCV13 and PSV23 vaccines: recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). MMWR 2015;64:944-47. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6434a4.htm
  2. Carrera E, Manzano r, Garrido. Efficacy of the vaccination in inflammatory bowel disease. World J Gastroenterol 2013;19:1349-53. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3602493/
  3. Reich J, Wasan S, Farraye FA. Vaccinating patients with inflammatory bowel disease. Gastroenterol Hepatol 2016;12:540-46. http://www.gastroenterologyandhepatology.net/archives/september-2016/vaccinating-patients-with-inflammatory-bowel-disease/
  4. Chaudrey K, Salvaggio M, Ahmed A, et al. Updates in vaccination: recommendations for adult inflammatory bowel disease patients. World J Gastroenterol 2015;21:3184-96. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25805924
  5. Ryan FP, Smart RC, Holdworth CD, et al. Hyposplenism in inflammatory bowel disease. Gut 1978;19:50-55. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1411782/
  6. Jewell DP, Berney JJ, Pettit JE. Splenic phagocytic function in patients with inflammatory bowel disease. Pathology 1981;13:717-23. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7335378
  7. Van der Hoeven JG, de Koning J, Masclee AM et al. Fatal pneumococcal septic shock in a patient with ulcerative colitis. Clin Infec Dis 1996;22:860-1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8722951

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Should my hospitalized patient with ulcerative colitis flare-up receive pneumococcal vaccination?

Does my patient about to undergo immunosuppressive therapy need antiviral prophylaxis even if she tests positive for hepatitis B surface antibody?

The presence of hepatitis B surface antibody (HBsab) in patients who also test positive for core antibody does not necessarily confer full protection against hepatitis B virus (HBV) reactivation during immunosuppression (incidence 4.3%). 1 This is because despite having HBsab and no HB surface antigen,  a small portion of patients continue to have detectable HBV DNA in the serum and are therefore at risk of reactivation during severe immunosuppression. 2

In fact, the American Gastroenterological Association recommends against using anti-HBs status to guide antiviral prophylaxis in anti-HBc-positive patients. 1

Overall, antiviral prophylaxis may reduce the risk of HBV reactivation by 87% (C.I. 70%-94%). Antiviral drugs with a high barrier to resistance (eg, entecavir) are preferred over lamivudine.

Immunosuppressants often requiring HBV prophylaxis include: 1-3

  • B cell-depleting agents (eg, rituximab, ofatumumab)
  • Anthracycline derivatives (eg, doxorubicin, epirubicin)
  • Prednisone (4 weeks or more)
  • Tumor necrosis factor inhibitors (eg, etanercept, adalimumab, certolizumab, infliximab)
  • Other cytokine or integrin inhibitors (eg, abatacept, ustekinumab, natalizumab, vedolizumab)

Traditional immunosuppressive agents such as azathioprine, 6-mercaptopurine and methotrexate are often considered “low-risk” and do not generally require prophylaxis. 1

Fun Fact: Did you know that hepatitis B virus is very old and probably originated in birds when dinosaurs roamed the earth? 4

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References

  1. Reddy KR, Beavers KL, Hammond SP, et al. American Gastroenterological Association Institute Guideline on the prevention and treatment of hepatitis B virus reactivation during immunosuppressive drug therapy. Gastroenterology 2015;148:215-19. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25447850
  2. Gigi E, Georgiou T, Mougiou D, et al. Hepatitis B reactivation in a patient with rheumatoid arthritis with antibodies to hepatitis B surface antigen treated with rituximab. HIPPOKATRIA 2013;17:91-93. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3738290/
  3. Kim EB, Kim DS, Park SJ, et al. Hepatitis B virus reactivation in a surface antigen-negative and antibody-positive patient after rituximab plus CHOP chemotherapy. Cancer Res Treat 2008;40:36-38. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2699087/
  4. Suh A, Brosius J, Schmitz J, et al. The genome of a Mesozoic paleovirus reveals the evolution of hepatitis B virus. Nature Communications 2013; Article no. 1791. http://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms2798

 

Disclosures: The listed questions and answers are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of Mercy Hospital-St. Louis or its affiliate healthcare centers, Mass General Hospital, Harvard Medical School or its affiliated institutions. Although every effort has been made to provide accurate information, the author is far from being perfect. The reader is urged to verify the content of the material with other sources as deemed appropriate and exercise clinical judgment in the interpretation and application of the information provided herein. No responsibility for an adverse outcome or guarantees for a favorable clinical result is assumed by the author. Thank you!

Does my patient about to undergo immunosuppressive therapy need antiviral prophylaxis even if she tests positive for hepatitis B surface antibody?