In a recent study, researchers from the Rochester, Minn-based Mayo Clinic report that a risk score may be developed to assist in predicting the risk of serious infection in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients. According to a recent news release, the score is designed to use information about how RA is impacting a patient, factoring in components including age, corticosteroid use, and the presence of other illnesses. 

The release notes that the Mayo team developed the infection risk score based on the medical records gathered in the National Institutes of Health-funded Rochester Epidemiology Project, which encompassed 584 RA patients diagnosed between the years 1955 and 1994, with a follow up that extended until January 2000. The results of this research suggested that among these patients, 252 had more than one serious infection requiring hospitalization and/or intravenous antibiotic. 

Mayo Clinic reports that multiple factors were considered in the infection risk score’s calculation, including age, previous serious infections, corticosteroid use, low white blood cell count, signs of RA outside joints, and elevated results in a blood test used to detect signs of inflammation.  “Using a risk score in this way can alert physicians that their patient is at high risk for infection and needs more frequent follow-ups, measures for infection prevention and possible changes in treatments,” explains senior author Eric Matterson, MD, chair of the division of rheumatology at Mayo Clinic.

Matterson adds that RA patients exhibit a higher risk of infection and this risk does not only stem from arthritis drugs. The study calls for more research in order to determine the level of infection risk at which patients would obtain the most benefit from medications to prevent infection. The research would also need to determine how infection risk might impact the use of a category of RA drugs, disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs, DMARDs.

Source: Mayo Clinic