New Blood Test Said to Predict Onset of Arthritis

Test accurate within three-year window

A blood test for people at risk for rheumatoid arthritis can identify those who will develop the disease within 3 years, new research shows.

“Our data support a new biomarker that demonstrates better predictive power than other biomarkers evaluated so far,” said investigator Anne Musters, MD, from the Amsterdam Rheumatology and Immunology Center.

The findings confirm results from a study of 21 people with autoantibodies indicating risk for rheumatoid arthritis. The presence of at least five dominant B-cell receptor (BCR) clones in peripheral blood predicted the short-term onset of rheumatoid arthritis.

“We think that peripheral BCR clones can be used to identify at-risk individuals who will go on to develop arthritis,” Musters said in a statement. This information could be used to evaluate “early interventions to prevent the onset of disease.”

In their study, Musters and her colleagues used next-generation sequencing to evaluate BCR clones in 129 people with joint pain and rheumatoid arthritis-specific antibodies.

Of these, 45 people tested positive—defined as at least five dominant BCR clones—and 84 tested negative.

During the 104-month follow-up period, patients in the positive group were more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis than those in the negative group (76% vs 13%; relative risk, 5.8; 95% confidence interval, 3.2 – 10.3; P < .0001).

“This test works perfectly in helping us predict who will develop rheumatoid arthritis and might need treatment,” said investigator Niek de Vries, MD, PhD.

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