Purpose Given the heterogeneity of clinical presentations, the diagnosis of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) can be challenging, in particular in those patients presenting with early or incomplete disease, or with overlapping or atypical features. Autoantibodies (AABs) are important in aiding the clinical diagnosis of SLE, with some few AABs, anti-double-stranded DNA (dsDNA), anti-Smith (Sm), and anti-ribosomal P (riboP) being highly associated with SLE. As none of the traditional AABs has sufficient sensitivity to achieve diagnosis of SLE, current testing is based on measuring multiple AAB assays either in parallel or serial. We have recently identified novel AABs in SLE, which hold promise for improving diagnostic testing of SLE (1). We have developed quantitative ELISA-prototypes for five new AABs, which were tested in combination with traditional AABs. The objectives of this study were to evaluate the diagnostic value of novel AABs and to screen for an optimised combination of novel and traditional AABs using logistic regression to increase the diagnostic accuracy of SLE testing.
Methods Serum samples were obtained from 156 SLE patients with European ancestry at the rheumatology department of the Heinrich-Heine University (Düsseldorf, Germany), and Hannover Medical School (Hannover, Germany). SLE samples were compared against 126 samples from autoimmune diseases (AID; myositis: n=20; Sjögren’s syndrome (SjS): n=31; rheumatoid arthritis (RA) n=36; systemic sclerosis (SSc): n=39), and 77 healthy control samples. Prototype bead based ELISAs were developed for 5recently identified novel antigens. Traditional diagnostic AABs were measured using IVD ELISAs and included: SSA/Ro60, SSA/Ro52, La/SSB, Sm, RNP, dsDNA, Scl70, CENPB, Jo-1, CCP, phospholipid and dsDNA. Optimised marker combinations of new and traditional markers were tested using logistic regression and receiver operating curve analysis (ROC).
Results When comparing 156 SLE patients with 203 control samples, the area under the curve (AUC) of the five novel SLE ELISAs ranged from 0.63 to 0.75. A cut-off was set at a specificity of 95% and yielded a sensitivity ranging from 13.5% to 21.2% for the five novel assays. The sensitivity and specificity of new ELISAs was comparable to traditional ELISAs, which was in this cohort for anti-dsDNA 35% and 97%, anti-Sm 15% and 97%, and anti-RiboP 26% and 97%. A logistic regression model was used to combine the results of multiple tests. Compared to a logistic regression with traditional assays, a logistic regression with novel markers achieved higher sensitivity by pertaining high specificity. The logistic regression model based on a multimarker IVD assay with ten extracted nuclear antigens (ENA) yielded an AUC of 0.87 and a sensitivity of 58% at a specificity of 95%. By contrast, the optimal combination of traditional and novel ELISAs reached an AUC of 0.92 and a sensitivity of 75% at a specificity of 95%.
Conclusions This study demonstrates the feasibility of combining test results of novel and traditional AABs using logistic regression to increase the diagnostic accuracy for SLE. Further studies are required to assess the impact of different ethnicities on marker selection and algorithm performance.
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