Objectives Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) is a chronic inflammatory joint disease affecting children. Even if remission is successfully induced, about half of the patients experience a relapse after stopping anti-inflammatory therapy. The present study investigated whether patients with JIA at risk of relapse can be identified by biomarkers even if clinical signs of disease activity are absent.
Methods Patients fulfilling the criteria of inactive disease on medication were included at the time when all medication was withdrawn. The phagocyte activation markers S100A12 and myeloid-related proteins 8/14 (MRP8/14) were compared as well as the acute phase reactant high-sensitivity C reactive protein (hsCRP) as predictive biomarkers for the risk of a flare within a time frame of 6 months.
Results 35 of 188 enrolled patients experienced a flare within 6 months. Clinical or standard laboratory parameters could not differentiate between patients at risk of relapse and those not at risk. S100A12 and MRP8/14 levels were significantly higher in patients who subsequently developed flares than in patients with stable remission. The best single biomarker for the prediction of flare was S100A12 (HR 2.81). The predictive performance may be improved if a combination with hsCRP is used.
Conclusions Subclinical disease activity may result in unstable remission (ie, a status of clinical but not immunological remission). Biomarkers such as S100A12 and MRP8/14 inform about the activation status of innate immunity at the molecular level and thereby identify patients with unstable remission and an increased risk of relapse.
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Funding This work was supported by a grant from the Interdisciplinary Centre of Clinical Research at the University of Muenster (IZKF CRA04) and FP7-Network PHARMACHILD. The clinical trial was supported by grants from the non-for-profit organisation PRINTO.
Competing interests None.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
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