A marker has been identified by scientists that can indicate a person’s likelihood of suffering from rheumatoid arthritis (RA) years before the onset of the condition.

RA occurs when a certain protein (tenascin-C) is altered during inflammation, causing an immune response that turns antibodies on themselves. Scientists at Oxford University have discovered a blood test that identifies antibodies to tenascin-C in patients and therefore are able to know with reliability which people will develop the condition.

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The researchers looked at more than 2,000 results from patients, and found that testing for antibodies that targeted citrullinated tenascin-C, could diagnose about 50% of RA cases. They even found some cases that weren’t discovered by the CCP test, the pre-existing test which generally identifies RA. “It also has a very low rate of false positives – it is 98% accurate in ruling out RA,” Dr. Anja Schwenzer, the lead researcher, stated.

Interestingly, the study discovered antibodies in RA patients for years before their symptoms appeared. The antibodies could be detected 7 years on average before the disease appeared.

Early diagnosis of RA can be key in controlling the disease, as the time between diagnosis and onset of symptoms is small. This research could allow patients to be followed before the disease even begins. Researchers stated study findings could have great potential to help patients with RA get the appropriate treatment earlier.

For more information visit ox.ac.uk/news.