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1.  Rheumatic Disease among Oklahoma Tribal Populations: A Cross-Sectional Study 
The Journal of rheumatology  2012;39(10):1934-1941.
Objectives
Rheumatic diseases cause significant morbidity within American Indian populations. Clinical disease presentations, as well as historically associated autoantibodies, are not always useful in making a rapid diagnosis or assessing prognosis. The purpose of this study is to identify autoantibody associations among Oklahoma tribal populations with rheumatic disease.
Methods
Oklahoma tribal members (110 rheumatic disease patients and 110 controls) were enrolled at tribal-based clinics. Rheumatic disease patients (suspected or confirmed diagnosis) were assessed by a rheumatologist for clinical features, disease criteria, and activity measures. Blood samples were collected and tested for common rheumatic disease autoantibodies (ANA, anti-CCP, anti-RF, anti-Ro, anti-La, anti-Sm, anti-nRNP, anti-Ribosomal P, anti-dsDNA, and anti-cardiolipins).
Results
In patients with suspected systemic rheumatic diseases, 72% satisfied ACR classification: 40 (36%) rheumatoid arthritis, 16 (15%) systemic lupus erythematosus, 8 (7%) scleroderma, 8 (7%) osteoarthritis, 4 (4%) fibromyalgia, 2 (2%) seronegative spondyloarthropathy, 1 Sjogrens syndrome, and 1 sarcoidosis. When compared to controls, RA patient sera were more likely to contain anti-CCP (55% vs 2%, p<0.001) or anti-RF IgM antibodies (57% vs 10%, p<0.001); however, the difference was greater for anti-CCP. Anti-CCP positivity conferred higher disease activity scores (DAS28 5.6 vs 4.45, p=0.021) while anti-RF positivity did not (DAS28 5.36 vs 4.64, p=0.15). Anticardiolipin antibodies (25% or rheumatic disease paitents vs 10% of contros,; p=0.0022) and ANA (63% vs 21%, p<0.0001) were more common in rheumatic disease patients.
Conclusion
Anti-CCP may serve as a better RA biomarker in AI patients, while the clinical significance of increased frequency of aCLs needs further evaluation.
doi:10.3899/jrheum.110984
PMCID: PMC3468952  PMID: 22896022
Autoimmune diseases; autoantibodies; American Indian; rheumatic disease
2.  B Lymphocyte Stimulator Levels in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus: Higher Circulating Levels in African American Patients and Increased Production after Influenza Vaccination in Patients with Low Baseline Levels 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2011;63(12):3931-3941.
Objective
Examine the relationship between circulating B lymphocyte stimulator (BLyS) levels and humoral responses to influenza vaccination in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) patients, as well as the effect of vaccination on BLyS levels. Clinical and serologic features of SLE that are associated with elevated BLyS levels will also be investigated.
Methods
Clinical history, disease activity measurements and blood specimens were collected from sixty SLE patients at baseline and after influenza vaccination. Sera were tested for BLyS levels, lupus-associated autoantibodies, serum IFN-α activity, 25-hydroxyvitamin D, and humoral responses to influenza vaccination.
Results
Thirty percent of SLE patients had elevated BLyS levels, with African American patients having higher BLyS levels than European American patients (p=0.006). Baseline BLyS levels in patients were not correlated with humoral responses to influenza vaccination (p=0.863), and BLyS levels increased post-vaccination only in the subset of patients in the lowest quartile of BLyS levels (p=0.0003). Elevated BLyS levels were associated with increased disease activity as measured by SLEDAI, PGA, and SLAM in European Americans (p=0.035, p=0.016, p=0.018, respectively), but not in African Americans. Elevated BLyS levels were also associated with anti-nRNP (p=0.0003) and decreased 25(OH)D (p=0.018). Serum IFN-α activity was a significant predictor of elevated BLyS in a multivariate analysis (p=0.002).
Conclusion
African American SLE patients have higher BLyS levels regardless of disease activity. Humoral response to influenza vaccination is not correlated with baseline BLyS levels in SLE patients and only those patients with low baseline BLyS levels demonstrate an increased BLyS response after vaccination.
doi:10.1002/art.30598
PMCID: PMC3234134  PMID: 22127709
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE); Cytokines
3.  Vitamin D deficiency is associated with an increased autoimmune response in healthy individuals and in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus 
Annals of the rheumatic diseases  2011;70(9):1569-1574.
Objectives
Vitamin D deficiency is widespread and has been associated with many chronic diseases, including autoimmune disorders. A study was undertaken to explore the impact of low vitamin D levels on autoantibody production in healthy individuals, as well as B cell hyperactivity and interferon α (IFNα) activity in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
Methods
Serum samples from 32 European American female patients with SLE and 32 matched controls were tested for 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) levels, lupus-associated autoantibodies and serum IFNα activity. Isolated peripheral blood mononuclear cells were tested for intracellular phospho-ERK 1/2 as a measure of B cell activation status.
Results
Vitamin D deficiency (25(OH)D <20 ng/ml) was significantly more frequent among patients with SLE (n=32, 69%) and antinuclear antibody (ANA)-positive controls (n=14, 71%) compared with ANA-negative controls (n=18, 22%) (OR 7.7, 95% CI 2.0 to 29.4, p=0.003 and OR 8.8, 95% CI 1.8 to 43.6, p=0.011, respectively). Patients with high B cell activation had lower mean (SD) 25(OH)D levels than patients with low B cell activation (17.2 (5.1) vs 24.2 (3.9) ng/ml; p=0.009). Patients with vitamin D deficiency also had higher mean (SD) serum IFNα activity than patients without vitamin D deficiency (3.5 (6.6) vs 0.3 (0.3); p=0.02).
Conclusions
The observation that ANA-positive healthy controls are significantly more likely to be deficient in vitamin D than ANA-negative healthy controls, together with the finding that vitamin D deficiency is associated with certain immune abnormalities in SLE, suggests that vitamin D plays an important role in autoantibody production and SLE pathogenesis.
doi:10.1136/ard.2010.148494
PMCID: PMC3149865  PMID: 21586442
4.  Influenza vaccination responses in human systemic lupus erythematosus: impact of clinical and demographic features 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2011;63(8):2396-2406.
Objective
Vaccination against common pathogens, such as influenza, is recommended for SLE patients to decrease infections and improve health. However, most vaccination response reports are limited to evaluation of SLE patients with quiescent disease. This study focuses on understanding the clinical, serological, therapeutic, and demographic factors which influence the response to influenza vaccination in patients with a range of disease activities.
Methods
Blood specimens and disease activity information were collected from seventy-two SLE patients at baseline and 2, 6 and 12 weeks after influenza vaccination. Influenza-specific antibody responses were assessed for antibody concentration (Bmax), relative affinity (Ka), and hemagglutination inhibition (HAI). Using a cumulative score, the subjects were evenly divided into high and low responders. Autoantibody levels were evaluated at each time-point by immunofluorescence and standard ELISAs.
Results
Low responders to the vaccine were more likely to have hematologic criteria (p=0.009), exhibit more ACR criteria (p=0.05), and be on concurrent prednisone treatment (p=0.04). Interestingly, European American patients were more likely to be low responders than African Americans (p = 0.03). Following vaccination, low responders were more likely to experience disease flares (p=0.01) and to have increased ANA titers (p = 0.04). Baseline serum interferon alpha activity was significantly higher in patients that experienced a flare after vaccination compared to a matched group of patients that did not flare (p= 0.04).
Conclusions
Ancestral background, prednisone treatment, hematological criteria and evidence of increased disease flares were associated with low antibody responses to influenza vaccination in SLE patients.
doi:10.1002/art.30388
PMCID: PMC3149742  PMID: 21598235

Results 1-4 (4)