(RxWiki News) To decide how best to treat rheumatoid arthritis, doctors need to track the course of disease in their patients. In the past, disease activity has been tracked through observation.
Now a simple blood test may make it easier for doctors to track the progression of rheumatoid arthritis.
"Pay attention to your arthritis symptoms."
Generally, doctors measure arthritis disease activity by counting the number of tender and swollen joints, measuring pain and assessing joint function, said Jeffrey Curtis, MD, of the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and lead author of the study.
The new blood test, called Vectra DA, tracks disease activity by measuring levels of 12 different biomarkers.
According to Dr. Curtis, this blood test can be easily reproduced and standardized across healthcare clinics. Previously, no such tool has been available to doctors.
The 12 biomarkers targeted by the test are all signs of inflammation, a central characteristic of rheumatoid arthritis.
Not only can the test measure current disease activity, but it may also be useful for predicting future arthritis flare-ups and future joint damage, said Dr. Curtis. However, these potential uses have not been tested yet.
For this study, the researchers examined the test results in 512 rheumatoid arthritis patients. Their disease activity as shown by the new blood test was similar to that shown by the DAS28-CRP (Disease Activity Score) - a measurement of tender and swollen joints out of a total of 28 joints.
The new test "...could provide physicians with an objective, consistent and biologically rich measure of rheumatoid arthritis disease activity," said Dr. Curtis.
Vectra DA is developed by Crescendo Bioscience of South San Francisco.
Dr. Curtis has received support from the National Institutes of Health, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and a number of drug companies. He has also been a consultant for Crescendo Bioscience.
The research was published June 26 in Arthritis Care & Research, a journal of the American College of Rheumatology.