Researchers at Qatar University (QU) and University of Warwick (UoW) in the UK have developed a new blood test to diagnose early-stage osteoarthritis.

The new test quantifies modified amino acids that are released into the blood from proteins in the joints during the early development stages of arthritis.

Arthritis, specifically rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis or other inflammatory joint diseases that often heal themselves, can be characterised by the patterns and amounts of these compounds.

QU noted that the blood test helps in the early detection of the disease and enables treatment as well as support before irreversible joint damage occurs.

Additionally, the test identifies the type of arthritis and helps physicians determine the appropriate treatment type.

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This will help individuals as well as society by maintaining an independent, healthy and functional workforce.

The researchers developed diagnostic algorithms using machine-learning analysis.

The algorithms are based on levels and combinations of modified amino acids and can distinguish whether arthritis is present or not.

Further algorithms can also distinguish between early-stage rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and other self-resolving inflammatory joint diseases.

The new test achieved 92% sensitivity, 90% specificity and 92% accuracy.

QU said that the researchers have further evaluated the new blood test diagnostic algorithm in more than 350 samples.

QU Basic Medical Sciences professor Dr Naila Rabbani said: “Use of the test will help guide physicians at the earliest stage, at which their patient experiences joint pain, as to whether arthritis is present or not.

“Acting on the outcome of this test, the physicians will enable appropriate therapy to be initiated at an early stage when there is a good chance to avoid development to severe disease.

“The test is based on quantifying fragments of damaged protein produced in early-stage arthritis that leak from the joint into blood. It is based on markers of the disease mechanism and hence achieves great accuracy.”

The new test could also be used to monitor treatment effectiveness and post-operative recovery following joint replacement surgery.