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Autoantibody profiling as early diagnostic and prognostic tool for rheumatoid arthritis
  1. V P K Nell1,
  2. K P Machold1,
  3. T A Stamm1,
  4. G Eberl2,
  5. H Heinzl3,
  6. M Uffmann4,
  7. J S Smolen1,2,5,
  8. G Steiner1,5
  1. 1Division of Rheumatology, Department of Internal Medicine III, Medical University of Vienna, Austria
  2. 2Second Department of Medicine, Lainz Hospital, Vienna, Austria
  3. 3Department of Medical Computer Sciences, Medical University of Vienna, Austria
  4. 4Department of Radiology, Medical University of Vienna, Austria
  5. 5Ludwig Boltzmann-Institute for Rheumatology, Vienna, Austria
  1. Correspondence to:
    Dr G Steiner
    Department of Rheumatology, Internal Medicine III, Medical University of Vienna, Waehringer Guertel 18-20, A-1090 Austria;


Background: Early treatment prevents progression of joint damage in rheumatoid arthritis (RA), but diagnosis in early disease is impeded by lack of appropriate diagnostic criteria.

Objective: To study the value of rheumatoid factor (RF), anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide autoantibodies (anti-CCP), and anti-RA33 autoantibodies for diagnosis of RA and prediction of outcome in patients with very early arthritis.

Methods: The prospective follow up inception cohort included 200 patients with very early (<3 months) inflammatory joint disease. Autoantibodies were measured at baseline and analysed in a tree based model which aimed at determining the added diagnostic value of testing for anti-CCP and anti-RA33 as compared with RF alone.

Results: RA was diagnosed in 102 patients, while 98 developed other inflammatory arthropathies. Receiver operator curve analysis showed an optimum cut off level for RF at 50 U/ml, above which anti-CCP and anti-RA33 had no additional diagnostic value. Remarkably, RF ⩾50 U/ml and anti-CCP showed similar sensitivity and high specificity for RA, but overlapped considerably. Anti-RA33 was less specific and did not correlate with RF or anti-CCP. Among patients with RA, 72% showed at least one of these three autoantibodies, compared with 15% of non-RA patients. RF ⩾50 U/ml and anti-CCP were predictors of erosive disease, whereas anti-RA33 was associated with mild disease.

Conclusions: Stepwise autoantibody testing in early inflammatory joint disease, starting with RF, followed by anti-CCP (in patients with RF <50 U/ml), and finally anti-RA33, should be used as a sensitive and effective strategy for distinguishing patients with RA at high risk for poor outcome.

  • ACR, American College of Rheumatology
  • anti-CCP, anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide antibodies
  • DAS28, 28 joint count Disease Activity Score
  • DMARDs, disease modifying antirheumatic drugs
  • PPV, positive predictive value
  • RA, rheumatoid arthritis
  • ROC, receiver operating characteristics
  • RF, rheumatoid factor
  • autoantibodies
  • early rheumatoid arthritis
  • rheumatoid factor
  • anti-CCP
  • anti-RA33

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