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Testing for certain antibodies in the blood may alert physicians to the development of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) years before physical symptoms appear. A study, the results of which were published in the October 2003 issue of Arthritis and Rheumatism, found that one third of people with RA had antibodies?anti?cyclic citrullinated peptide (CCP) antibodies?in their blood long before they ever felt the first symptoms of the disease.
Presently, physicians diagnose RA based on symptoms and the presence of rheumatoid factor in the blood. ?The anti-CCP test may help us detect patients who have early rheumatoid arthritis better than rheumatoid factor, and it may also predict patients who have more progressive disease,? said Clifton O. Bingham III, MD, director of the Seligman Center for Advanced Therapeutics at NYU-Hospital for Joint Disease (New York City). In the latest study, researchers reviewed data from the Northern Sweden Health and Disease Study and the Maternity cohorts of Northern Sweden. They discovered 83 people who had donated blood several years before being diagnosed with RA. The researchers analyzed blood samples taken from the participants prior to symptoms of RA. The average time frame between when the blood was taken and the diagnosis of RA was 2.5 years.
Among the 83 people, 34% tested positive for anti-CCP antibodies. Furthermore, the closer the blood samples were taken to the start of symptoms, the more frequently the blood tested positive for anti-CCP antibodies. When the researchers checked for the presence of anti- CCP antibodies in combination with rheumatoid factor, their prediction regarding who would develop RA was nearly 100%.