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Shingles may be precipitated by drugs prescribed for rheumatoid arthritis (RA), researchers have found.
Researchers at the Rheumatism Research Centre in Berlin studied the effects that the anti-TNF-alpha agents adalimumab and infliximab have on the immune system.
It is thought they open the door to the virus, which can remain dormant in nerve roots next to the spinal cord and be re-activated, often many years later.
Although shingles can occur at any age, is most common in people over 50. While it cannot be passed from person to person, it is possible to catch chicken pox from someone with shingles.
The researchers found that the risk of shingles almost doubled when patients were receiving anti-TNF-alpha agents, which are artificial antibodies that prevent the immune-system signals that are partly responsible for RA.
Dr Anja Strangfeld writes in the Journal of the American Medical Association (Jama): “Based on our data, we recommend careful monitoring of patients treated with monoclonal anti-TNF-alpha antibodies for early signs and symptoms of Herpes zoster.”
Copyright Press Association 2009