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Arthritis infection warning

Patients with inflammatory polyarthritis are at raised risk of infection, particularly if they smoke, use steroids or have rheumatoid factor, a study of UK primary care concludes.

Patients with all three factors were as much as seven times as likely to be hospitalised for serious infection as other sufferers, the study reported.

Diane Bunn, a researcher on the study and clinical manager of the Norfolk Arthritis Register, said: 'There is an increased incidence and GPs should be aware of that when they are treating someone who is older, positive for rheu-matoid factor and on steroids.'

Risk of infection was more than 2.5 times greater in patients with arthritis than the general population.

Those with rheumatoid factor were twice as likely to have an infection as other patients with arthritis, as were steroid users, the researchers report online in Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.

The study followed more than 2,000 patients with inflammatory polyarthritis annually for an average of 9.2 years and compared the rate of hospitalisation for serious infection with the regional population.

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