Early Signs of Rheumatoid Arthritis Discovered

Can a blood test predict whether patients will develop rheumatoid arthritis (RA)? A group of Dutch researchers seems to think so. Their findings shed new light on the presence of inflammation in the preclinical phase of RA, in patients both with and without autoantibodies, abnormal proteins in the blood associated with autoimmune disease.

Collecting samples from an established blood bank in Amsterdam, Dutch researchers focused on 79 patients, 61 percent women, with a mean age of 51 years at the time of diagnosis. For each RA sample, they obtained a control sample donated by a healthy patient, matched for sex, age and time of blood donation.

Among RA patient samples, researchers found signs of early inflammation, measured by elevated levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) in the bloodstream. RA patients had consistently higher levels of CRP than the healthy controls throughout the 15 years preceding outward disease symptoms. The concentration of CRP, however, was most pronounced within the two years before a confirmed diagnosis of RA.

CRP has also been used a marker to identify people at risk for coronary artery disease.

Eurek Alert August 5, 2004

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