Blood test for Osteoarthritis on the way

The first blood test to detect osteoarthritis (OA) – the most common form of arthritis – could soon be available as researchers have identified a biomarker linked to both rheumatoid and osteoarthritis diseases.

Osteoarthritis causes pain, swelling and reduced motion in your joints. It can occur in any joint, but usually it affects your hands, knees, hips or spine.

The findings, published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports, could potentially lead to patients being tested for osteoarthritis and diagnosed several years before the onset of physical symptoms.

Whilst there are established tests for rheumatoid arthritis (RA), the newly identified biomarker could lead to one that can diagnose both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis (OA).

“This is a remarkable and unexpected finding. It could help bring early-stage and appropriate treatment for arthritis which gives the best chance of effective treatment,” said lead researcher Naila Rabbani from the University of Warwick, England.

The researchers’ focus was citrullinated proteins (CPs) — a biomarker suspected to be present in blood of people with early stage RA.


The researchers found for the first time increased CPs levels in both early-stage OA and RA.

They then produced an algorithm of three biomarkers, CPs, anti-CP antibodies along with the bone-derived substance, hydroxyproline.

Using the algorithm, the researchers found that with a single test, they could potentially detect and discriminate between the major types of arthritis at the early stages, before joint damage has occurred.

The ability to discriminate between RA and OA could provide a number of benefits to patients, including early diagnosis.

“This discovery raises the potential of a blood test that can help diagnose both RA and OA several years before the onset of physical symptoms,” Rabbani noted.

Exercise programme to relieve arthritis pain

Arthritis victims can dramatically improve their condition by following three simple home exercises, it is claimed.

The three-hours-a-week programme was devised in the US but has proved so successful GPs are being urged to prescribe it to Britain’s 10 million sufferers to reduce pain levels.

The first exercise is to stand upright from a seated position then sit again without using your arms.

In the second, outstretched arms are used to reach toes from a sitting position with knees straight.

The third involves walking as quickly as possible around the home for six minutes.

At the end of a trial of the regime, average pain rating for participants had fallen to 4.3 out of 10 from 4.7. Sufferers of chronic joint inflammation saw “significant improvements” in pain relief, stiffness and tiredness after just three months.

Previous studies have shown exercise regimes benefit arthritis but almost all sufferers are reluctant to keep them up.

“This is the first to prove home workouts provide the key to easing the agonising condition.

Dr Sara Wilcox, of the Department of Exercise Science at the University of South Carolina, which carried out the study, said: “This adds a more flexible format to the existing list of evidence-based programmes and it may appeal to subgroups of the arthritis population with less access to community programmes.”

Her study saw 197 sufferers with an average age of 56 steadily increase their health and mobility in just three months.

The pioneering participants in the First Step To Active Health programme proved conclusively that exercise is the key to controlling arthritis pain, it is claimed.


British GP Dr Ian Campbell said: “This is great news. Exercise, even low impact home-based activity, improves physical ability, general fitness and mood.

“The benefits are very clear and the risks are minimal. Even after only a few weeks of gentle exercise people will see and feel the benefits.

“Here is very clear evidence they can benefit easily, quickly and – most importantly – safely.”

The NHS spends £5.2billion a year on arthritis, including 77,000 knee and 66,000 hip replacements.

Jane Lyons, of charity Arthritis Care, said: “Some 70 per cent of those with osteoarthritis are in constant pain so any new evidence on how to confront and manage it is welcome.

“We are great believers in what seems to be the thinking behind this research – self management, which means giving people the confidence to manage the pain of their arthritis rather than letting their pain manage them.”

The findings are published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine.