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Finding lupus in the ANA haystack
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  • Published on:
    Overcoming the challenges in new lupus diagnostics
    • Edward M Vital, Associate Professor and Honorary Consultant Rheumatologist University of Leeds

    Dr Olsen and Karp have summarised data from several important papers on the use of novel diagnostic tests for earlier diagnosis of SLE. I agree in the importance of this problem, for the early exclusion of SLE in people with benign ANA positivity, and early intervention in people destined to develop SLE or related disease.

    I also agree with the key challenges in such research. Previous studies have been limited by a retrospective design. Inclusion of patients with variable symptom duration or patient populations that were selected for certain clinical characteristics may bias findings by conditioning on the outcome. Also, putative biomarker results need to be appraised alongside routine diagnostic tests, not in isolation.

    These challenges were met in our previous study into these questions[1]. We invited all ANA-positive referrals to our centre with an onset of the symptoms that triggered referral within the past 12 months to participate, ensuring an unbiased sample appropriate to the clinical question. We collected detailed data on clinical presentation, routine immunology assessments, patient and physician reported severity, and family history, and integrated these data into our biomarker evaluation. Our patients were recruited and followed up prospectively in a standardised schedule of visits with strict assessment of criteria and a "flare hotline" in case new symptoms developed.

    By doing so, we were able to reliably demonstrate the value...

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    Conflict of Interest:
    None declared.