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C-reactive proteins do not predict early osteoarthritis

SAN FRANCISCO -- C-reactive proteins, which are released into the bloodstream as a result of inflammation, may not be an accurate early predictive marker for chronic diseases such as osteoarthritis, according to a new study by Duke University Medical Center researchers. The finding calls into question the clinical usefulness of the proteins as an indicator of disease.

Instead, the researchers found, levels of C-reactive proteins circulating in the blood are more an indicator of a patient's weight that can be influenced by gender and ethnicity. While not the elusive predictor for osteoarthritis that many rheumatologists have been seeking, C-reactive protein levels could serve as a useful indicator of an osteoarthritis patient's response to therapy, according to the Duke researchers.

C-reactive proteins are produced by the liver in response to inflammation or infections, and their levels in the blood can rise dramatically in many chronic disease states. While previous studies by other researchers have suggested that elevated levels of C-reactive protein may be a predictive marker for disease, they did not take into account the role of weight or ethnicity, the Duke researchers said.

The results of the Duke study were presented March 7, 2004, at the 50th annual scientific meeting of the Orthopedic Research Society.

"Contrary to previous reports, the level of C-reactive protein in the blood is not a useful indicator of osteoarthritis because of its strong association with body mass index (BMI), the commonly used measure of obesity," said Duke's Virginia Kraus, M.D., lead investigator for the study. "Additionally, C-reactive protein levels are higher in African-Americans and women in general, so gender and ethnicity must also be taken in account when interpreting C-reactive protein levels in diagnosing common chronic diseases."

To date, the gold standard for diagnosing osteoarthritis has been the X-ray. However, since this radiograp
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Contact: Richard Merritt
merri006@mc.duke.edu
919-684-4148
Duke University Medical Center
7-Mar-2004


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