MAUI, HAWAII – The infants of inflammatory bowel disease patients on biologic therapy during pregnancy and breastfeeding do not have a diminished response rate to the inactivated vaccines routinely given during the first 6 months of life, Uma Mahadevan, MD, said at the 2018 Rheumatology Winter Clinical Symposium.
“Those babies are going to have detectable levels of drug on board, but they respond to vaccines just as well as infants born to mothers with IBD who were not on biologic therapy. The rates are the same, albeit lower than in the general population,” according to, professor of medicine and medical director of the Center for Colitis and Crohn’s Disease at the University of California, San Francisco.
Previous reports from the national registry have established that continuation of biologics in IBD patients throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding to maintain disease control poses no increased risks to the fetus in terms of rates of congenital anomalies, spontaneous abortion, intrauterine growth restriction, low birth weight, or longer-term developmental delay, compared with unexposed babies whose mothers have IBD.
Dr. Ananthakrishnan’s analysis focused on response rates to tetanus and Haemophilus influenzae B vaccines in the infants of 179 PIANO patients. Sixty-five percent of the IBD patients were on various biologic agents during pregnancy, 8% were on a thiopurine, 21% were on combination therapy, and 6% weren’t exposed to any IBD medications. Serologic studies showed that there was no difference across the four groups in terms of infant rates of protective titers in response to the vaccines. However, the 69%-84% rates of protective titers in the four groups fell short of the 90%-plus rate expected in the general population.
Live virus vaccines are contraindicated in the first 6 months of life in infants exposed to maternal biologics in utero. The only live virus vaccine given during that time frame in the United States is rotavirus, administered at months 2 and 3. Dr. Mahadevan and others recommend skipping that vaccine in babies exposed in utero to any IBD biologic other than certolizumab pegol (Cimzia), which uniquely doesn’t cross the placenta.
“That being said, infants born to 71 of our PIANO participants on anti-TNF therapy in pregnancy inadvertently got the rotavirus vaccine, and they were all just fine, even with very high drug levels,” the gastroenterologist said.