Boon or Bane? Anti-Tumor Necrosis Factor Therapy Complicated by Listeria monocytogenes Meningitis Culminating in Colectomy for Ulcerative Colitis

Ria Nagpal, Hemnaath Ulaganathan, Khushal Khan, Brian Egan


Anti-tumor necrosis factor (TNF) biologics have revolutionized the management of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs) by promoting mucosal healing and delaying surgical intervention in ulcerative colitis (UC). However, biologics can potentiate the risk of opportunistic infections alongside the use of other immunomodulators in IBD. As recommended by the European Crohns and Colitis Organisation (ECCO), anti-TNF-alpha therapy should be suspended in the setting of a potentially life-threatening infection. The objective of this case report was to highlight how the practice of appropriately discontinuing immunosuppression can exacerbate underlying colitis. We need to maintain a high index of suspicion for complications of anti-TNF therapy, so that we can intervene early and prevent potential adverse sequelae. In this report, a 62-year-old female presented to the emergency department with non-specific symptoms including fever, diarrhea and confusion on a background of known UC. She had been commenced on infliximab (INFLECTRA(R)) 4 weeks earlier. Inflammatory markers were elevated, and Listeria monocytogenes was identified on both blood cultures and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) polymerase chain reaction (PCR). The patient improved clinically and completed a 21-day course of amoxicillin advised by microbiology. After a multidisciplinary discussion, the team planned to switch her from infliximab to vedolizumab (ENTYVIO(R)). Unfortunately, the patient re-presented to hospital with acute severe UC. Left-sided colonoscopy demonstrated modified Mayo endoscopic score 3 colitis. She has had recurrent hospital admissions over the past 2 years for acute flares of UC, ultimately culminating in colectomy. To our knowledge, our case-based review is unique in unpacking the dilemma of holding immunosuppression at the risk of IBD worsening.

J Med Cases. 2023;14(5):155-161


Ulcerative colitis; Inflammatory bowel disease; Anti-TNF therapy; Infliximab; Listeria monocytogenes; Vedolizumab; Meningitis; Colectomy

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