Methotrexate (MTX) is the first line drug for the treatment of a number of rheumatic and non-rheumatic disorders. It is currently used as an anchor disease, modifying anti-rheumatic drug in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Despite the development of numerous new targeted therapies, MTX remains the backbone of RA therapy due to its potent efficacy and tolerability. There has been also a growing interest in the use of MTX in the treatment of chronic viral mediated arthritis. Many viruses—including old world alphaviruses, Parvovirus B19, hepatitis B/C virus, and human immunodeficiency virus—have been associated with arthritogenic diseases and reminiscent of RA. MTX may provide benefits although with the potential risk of attenuating patients’ immune surveillance capacities. In this review, we describe the emerging mechanisms of action of MTX as an anti-inflammatory drug and complementing its well-established immunomodulatory activity. The mechanisms involve adenosine signaling modulation, alteration of cytokine networks, generation of reactive oxygen species and HMGB1 alarmin suppression. We also provide a comprehensive understanding of the mechanisms of MTX toxic effects. Lastly, we discussed the efficacy, as well as the safety, of MTX used in the management of viral-related rheumatic syndromes.
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