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Serum immunoglobulins and the risk of rheumatoid arthritis
  1. K Ahoa,
  2. M Heliövaaraa,
  3. P Knekta,
  4. A Reunanena,
  5. A Aromaaa,
  6. A Leinob,
  7. P Kurkic,
  8. R Heikkiläc,
  9. T Palosuoa
  1. aNational Public Health Institute, Helsinki , bSocial Insurance Institution, Research and Development Centre, Turku , cUnited Laboratories Ltd, Helsinki
  1. Dr K Aho, National Public Health Institute, Mannerheimintie 166, FIN-00300 Helsinki, Finland.


OBJECTIVE Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is associated with several autoantibodies that can precede the clinical disease. The immunoglobulin concentrations in serum samples before illness were studied to learn more about the immunological process before RA.

METHODS A case-control study was nested within a Finnish cohort of 19 072 adults who had neither arthritis nor a history of it at the baseline examination during 1973–1977. By late 1989, 124 had developed RA, of which 89 were positive for rheumatoid factor (RF). Three controls per each incident case were individually matched for sex, age, and municipality. The concentrations of IgG, IgA, and IgM were measured from stored serum samples.

RESULTS Serum IgG before illness was found to be directly proportional to the risk of RF positive RA, and a non-linear association was present between serum IgA and the risk of RF positive RA. These associations were constant between men and women and other subgroups of the study population and not confounded by serum orosomucoid concentration, level of education, smoking, alcohol intake or body mass index. As adjusted for these factors, the odds ratios (95% confidence intervals) of RF positive RA in the lowest, mid, and highest tertiles of IgG distribution were 1.00, 1.55 (0.81, 2.97), and 2.22 (1.16, 4.26), and in the tertiles of IgA 1.00, 2.23 (1.14, 4.36), and 1.78 (0.89, 3.57), respectively. The associations persisted throughout the entire observation period but were most distinct when the period to the onset of clinical RA was ≥ 10 years. IgM carried no predictive significance. None of the serum immunoglobulins predicted the development of RF negative RA.

CONCLUSIONS Increased IgG levels may reflect some, at present unknown process in the early events leading to the development of RA, typically occurring ≥ 10 years before the onset of clinical disease.

  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • epidemiology
  • immunoglobulins
  • rheumatoid factor
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