Pneumocystis pneumonia (PCP) is an opportunistic lung infection and has been reported among patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). An animal study revealed that sulfasalazine enhances Pneumocystis clearance from the lung by accelerating macrophage activity.
The self-controlled case series (SCCS) method was used to investigate the association between sulfasalazine use and PCP development in patients with RA without the effect of time-invariant, interpatient confounders. PCP episodes which developed in patients with RA at five hospitals between 2003 and 2019 were identified. PCP was defined by the following criteria: 1) detection of Pneumocystis jirovecii in respiratory specimens by polymerase chain reaction; 2) clinical symptoms (pyrexia, dry cough, dyspnea or hypoxia); 3) diffuse interstitial infiltrate on chest imaging; and 4) absence of PCP prophylaxis. The PCP incidence rate ratio (IRR) was compared between periods with and without sulfasalazine use by conditional Poisson regression.
Fifty episodes of PCP were identified in 49 patients. Thirty patients received sulfasalazine at some point during their observation. While 49 episodes of PCP developed in 170.3 person-years without sulfasalazine use, only one episode of PCP developed in 103.7 person-years with sulfasalazine use. Sulfasalazine use was associated with a decreased PCP risk (adjusted IRR <0.01; 95% confidence interval <0.01–0.03) after adjusting for age and glucocorticoid, methotrexate, and tumor necrosis factor inhibitor administration.
Our study demonstrated a preventive effect of sulfasalazine against PCP in patients with RA.
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Published online: November 05, 2022
Accepted: October 30, 2022
Received in revised form: October 24, 2022
Received: August 25, 2022
© 2022 Japanese Society of Chemotherapy and The Japanese Association for Infectious Diseases. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.