Abstract : OBJECTIVES: To report our experience with rituximab therapy in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and a history of severe or recurrent bacterial infections. PATIENTS AND METHODS: Retrospective observational study in five rheumatology departments experienced in the use of biotherapies. Patients were included if they had RA and a history of severe or recurrent bacterial infection (requiring admission and/or intravenous antimicrobial therapy) that contraindicated the introduction or continuation of TNFalpha antagonist therapy. RESULTS: Of 161 RA patients given rituximab in the five study centers, 30 met the inclusion criteria, 23 females and seven males with a mean age of 58.4+/-11.8 years and a mean disease duration of 11.4+/-13.9 years. Among them, 22 had rheumatoid factors and 21 had received TNFalpha antagonist therapy (one agent in 15 patients, two in five patients and three in one patient). Prior infections were as follows: septicemia, n=2; lower respiratory tract infection or lung abscess, n=12; prosthesis infection, n=3; septic arthritis, n=3; endocarditis, n=1; pyelonephritis, n=2; osteitis, n=4; and various skin infections (erysipelas, cellulitis or skin abscess), n=6. Of these 33 infections, 21 occurred during TNFalpha antagonist therapy. During rituximab therapy, all patients received concomitant glucocorticoid therapy (mean dosage, 12+/-7.9 mg/day). The number of rituximab cycles was one in 13 patients, two in seven patients and three or more in 10 patients. Mean time from the single or last serious infection and the first rituximab infusion was 20.1+/-18.7 months. Mean follow-up since the first rituximab infusion was 19.3+/-7.4 months. During follow-up, six (20%) patients experienced one infection each. Immunoglobulin levels after rituximab therapy were within the normal range. CONCLUSION: Rituximab therapy was well tolerated in 24 (80%) of 30 patients with RA and a history of severe or recurrent bacterial infection. In everyday practice, rituximab therapy seems safe with regard to the recurrence of infectious episodes. However, longer follow-ups are needed.