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עמוד בית
Sun, 16.06.24

April 2016

Serena Guiducci MD PhD, Silvia Bellando-Randone MD PhD and Marco Matucci-Cerinic MD PhD

Systemic sclerosis (SSc) is a heterogeneous chronic autoimmune disease that it is very difficult to diagnose in the early phase, resulting in a critical delay in therapy which is often begun when internal organ involvement is already irreversible. The ACR or LeRoy criteria have a low sensitivity for the early phases; these criteria were replaced by the ACR/EULAR 2013 criteria which improved the disease classification. Therefore, the SSc diagnosis may be delayed for several years after the onset of Raynaud’s phenomenon (RP) and even after the onset of the first non-RP symptom. RP, antinuclear antibodies (ANA) positivity, and puffy fingers were recently indicated as “red flags” (by the VEDOSS project) – that is, the main elements for suspicion of SSc in the very early phase of the disease. Confirming the diagnosis requires further tests, particularly nailfold videocapillaroscopy and evaluation of specific disease antibodies (anti-centromere and anti-topoisomerase I). In this way, the VEDOSS project identified patients in the very early phase of disease enabling a ‘‘window of opportunity’’ whereby the physician can act with effective drugs to block or at least slow the progression of the disease. The principal challenge in the fight against SSc is to detect valid predictors of disease evolution in order to treat patients in the early stage of disease. While waiting to find valid predictors, a close follow-up of the patients with the VEDOSS red flags is essential, as is a close collaboration between rheumatologists and general practitioners in order to identify all potential SSc patients as soon as possible.

Mahmoud Abu-Shakra MD

Physical, mental and social well-being are important outcomes in patients with chronic rheumatic diseases, including systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). The MOS SF-36 and the WHO QoL Bref are appropriate for assessing quality of life (QoL) in patients with SLE.  The QoL of patients with SLE is impaired compared with that of controls. Fibromyalgia adversely affects the QoL of SLE patients. Women with SLE had significantly lower scores on subscales of the sense of coherence (SoC) compared with matched controls. This reduced SoC in SLE women represents impaired adaptive coping and is independently associated with reduced QoL in women with SLE. Depression and anxiety are common among SLE patients, and the frequency is similar to that in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. A reciprocal longitudinal relationship between depression and illness intrusiveness was found in patients with SLE. Disease activity and damage are not associated with depression. The subjective experience, not the illness per se, causes depression.

Cecilia B. Chighizola MD PhD, Francesca Pregnolato BSc MStat, Elena Raschi BSc PhD, Claudia Grossi BSc, Davide Gentilini PhD, Maria O. Borghi BSc PhD, Pojen Chen PhD and Pier L. Meroni MD

Background: Antiphospholipid antibodies (aPL) have been advocated as potential mediators of unexplained female infertility, but no evidence has yet been raised to support such an association.

Objectives: To test the hypothesis that aPL might interfere with uterine decidualization, a gene expression study was performed on decidual stromal cells treated with different aPL preparations.

Methods: Decidual stromal cells were isolated from first-trimester deciduas obtained from two women undergoing elective abortion, and treated with: (i) a β2GPI-dependent aPL monoclonal antibody (IS3); (ii) IS3 plus TIFI, a synthetic peptide mimicking PL-binding region of β2GPI; and (iii) IgG from healthy subjects (NHS). Gene expression data were acquired using human HT-12 v3 beadchip arrays (Illumina). Differential expression analysis was performed by fitting a gene-wise linear model using the treatment group and decidual source as covariates.

Results: In the comparison of IS3 versus IgG NHS-treated decidual cells, gene ontology (GO) enrichment was expressed in terms relating to well-characterized aPL-mediated cellular effects: “inflammatory response,” “immune response,” “response to stress,” “oxydoreductase activity,” “metalloendopeptidase activity,” and “cytokine/chemokine activity.” As expected, almost all genes were up-regulated by IS3 treatment. The same GO categories appeared to be differentially expressed when IS3 treatment was compared to IS3 + TIFI, but with most genes being down-regulated.

Conclusions: Given the inflammatory response evinced at gene expression analysis on decidual stromal cells treated with a β2GPI -dependent aPL monoclonal antibody, it is feasible that aPL might interfere with uterine decidualization, affecting the early stages of implantation and ultimately resulting in female infertility.


Serena Colafrancesco MD, Carlo Perricone MD and Yehuda Shoenfeld MD FRCP

Sjögren’s syndrome (SS), a chronic systemic autoimmune inflammatory condition involving the exocrine glands, has been suggested to be part of the spectrum of the “Autoimmune/inflammatory Syndrome Induced by Adjuvants” (ASIA). ASIA incorporates an umbrella of clinical conditions including siliconosis, macrophage myofasciitis syndrome, and post-vaccination phenomena that occur after the exposure to a substance, namely the adjuvant. Interestingly, SS and ASIA share several common features. Firstly, a shared pathogenic mechanism involving a disruption of the immune system balance, with B cell proliferation, cytokine production and tissue infiltration, have been proposed. Patients with ASIA often present clinical features resembling those of SS; dry mouth and dry eyes have also been included in the proposed classification criteria for ASIA. Finally, several case reports have suggested that both vaccines and silicone may trigger the development of SS. Unveiling these common pathways will contribute considerably to our understanding and managing of both conditions.

Fabiola Atzeni MD PhD, Elisabetta Grillo MD, Ignazio F. Masala MD, Piercarlo Sarzi-Puttini MD and Gareth T. Jones PhD

Lung involvement is a well-recognized extra-articular manifestation of ankylosing spondylitis (AS). Anecdotal reports suggest that the use of anti-TNF drugs may be related to lung disease and pulmonary fibrosis. To examine the association between anti-TNF drugs and the development of lung disease in patients with AS or  psoriatic arthritis (PsA) we conducted a systematic review. Of the 670 papers identified by means of key word and hand search, only one full-text paper was considered potentially relevant but had to be discarded as it did not meet the eligibility criteria. Although no conclusion was reached, this is the first systematic review to examine this problem which is becoming increasingly important as these drugs are widely prescribed in patients with spondyloarthritis.

Estrella Garcia-Gonzalez MD PhD, Mauro Galeazzi MD PhD and Enrico Selvi MD PhD
Amir Tanay MD

Chikungunya fever (CHIK-F) has been increasingly documented among Western travelers returning from areas with chikungunya virus transmission, which are also popular tourist sites.  We present three Israeli travelers who developed fever, maculopapular rash and long-standing arthralgias while visiting northern Indian states not known to be involved in the chikungunya fever epidemic. We also present an epidemiological review of the chikungunya epidemic over the past decades. Rare systemic manifestations of this disorder, like catastrophic antiphospholipid syndrome (CAPS) and adult onset still’s syndrome, are discussed. The present era of international travel poses a novel diagnostic and epidemiologic challenge and we must increase our awareness to the possibility of an exotic tropical infectious disease.

Fabiola Atzeni MD PhD, Alberto Batticciotto MD PhD, Ignazio F. Masala MD, Rossella Talotta MD, Maurizio Benucci MD and Piercarlo Sarzi-Puttini MD

Long-term extension studies and observational drug registers have revealed an increased risk of serious infections in patients treated with anti-tumor necrosis factor agents, particularly infliximab, etanercept and adalimumab. The same may be true for the newer biological drugs rituximab, tocilizumab and abatacept, although this has yet to be confirmed by long-term observational studies. We review the risk of tuberculosis, herpes zoster and other opportunistic infections, and the recommendations for screening for tuberculosis and hepatitis B and C infections in patients affected by rheumatoid arthritis, with the aim of informing patients and encouraging greater awareness among physicians.

Paula R. David, Amir Dagan MD, Maartje Colaris MD, Mintsje de Boer MD, Jan W. Cohen Tervaert MD and Yehuda Shoenfeld MD FRCP MaCR
Antonio Vitale MD, Donato Rigante MD, Giuseppe Lopalco MD, Carlo Selmi MD, Mauro Galeazzi MD, Florenzo Iannone MD and Luca Cantarini MD PhD

Behçet’s disease (BD) is a systemic inflammatory disorder characterized by a protean clinical spectrum and an enigmatic pathogenesis. After being classified as an autoimmune disorder, spondyloarthritis and vasculitis, today BD is considered at the crossroad between autoimmune and auto-inflammatory syndromes. Many pathogenetic, clinical and therapeutic clues support this recent interpretation, enabling novel treatment choices such as interleukin (IL)-1 inhibition. Thus, in the last decade the IL-1 receptor antagonist anakinra and the anti-IL-1β monoclonal antibody canakinumab were increasingly administered in BD patients resistant to standard therapies, leading to interesting results and new intriguing pathogenetic implications. However, further studies are essential to both establish how the innate and acquired immune systems interact in BD patients and identify the best way of administering anti-IL-1 agents with regard to dosage, interval of administration and organ response.

Abdulla Watad MD, Shana G. Neumann BA, Alessandra Soriano MD, Howard Amital MD and Yehuda Shoenfeld MD FRCP MaCR

There is growing interest in the contribution of vitamin D deficiency to autoimmunity. Several studies have shown an association between low levels of vitamin D and autoimmune disorders, including multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, autoimmune thyroid diseases, celiac disease, and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Vitamin D receptor ligands can mediate immunosuppressive effects. It has been suggested that low levels of this hormone contribute to the immune activation in lupus and other autoimmune diseases. This review updates and summarizes the literature on the association between vitamin D and SLE, and discusses the various correlations between vitamin D and SLE activity, clinical expressions, serology, and gene polymorphisms of vitamin D receptors.

Marília Rodrigues MD, Laura Andreoli MD PhD and Angela Tincani MD

Autoimmune rheumatic diseases (ARD) affect mainly young women during their reproductive years. Fertility is usually not diminished but the time it takes to conceive is usually longer. Factors related to an ARD or to its treatment are responsible for this effect. In addition, contraception counseling is required to prevent negative fetal outcome and exacerbation of disease symptoms. In recent years, advances in therapies, clarification of risk factors for adverse pregnancy outcomes, and a multidisciplinary approach have vastly improved obstetric management, increasing the possibility of successful pregnancy with a high likelihood of favorable outcome.

Merav A. Ben-David MD, Ruth Elkayam MPA RN, Ilana Gelernter MA and Raphael M. Pfeffer MD

Background: Radiation-induced dermatitis is commonly seen during radiotherapy for breast cancer. Melatonin-based creams have shown a protective effect against ultraviolet-induced erythema and a radioprotective effect in rats.

Objectives: To evaluate the efficacy of melatonin-containing cream in minimizing acute radiation dermatitis. 

Methods: In this phase II, prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled double-blind study, patients who underwent breast-conserving surgery for stage 0-2 breast cancer were randomly allocated to melatonin emulsion (26 women) or placebo (21 women) for twice daily use during radiation treatment and 2 weeks following the end of radiotherapy. All women received 50 Gy whole breast radiation therapy with 2 Gy/fx using computed tomography-based 3D planning. Patients were examined and completed a detailed questionnaire weekly and 2 weeks following the end of treatment.

Results: The occurrence of grade 1/2 acute radiation dermatitis was significantly lower (59% vs. 90%, P = 0.038) in the melatonin group. Women older than 50 had significantly less dermatitis than younger patients (56% vs. 100%, P = 0.021). The maximal radiation dermatitis in the study group was grade 2 in 15% of the treated patients.

Conclusions: Patients treated with melatonin-containing emulsion experienced significantly reduced radiation dermatitis compared to patients receiving placebo.

Chiara Baldini MD, Nicoletta Luciano MD, Marta Mosca MD and Stefano Bombardieri MD

In recent years, salivary gland ultrasonography (SGUS) has emerged as a promising tool for the diagnosis and prognostic stratification of patients with primary and secondary Sjögren’s syndrome. Several studies have emphasized that salivary ultrasonography could be a highly specific tool for the diagnosis of the disease. However, before it can be used in daily clinical practice the SGUS procedure needs standardization and validation in larger disease-control groups. In this review we provide an update on the role of SGUS in the diagnostic algorithm of primary Sjögren’s syndrome.


Sara Bindoli MD, José J. Torres-Ruiz MD, Carlo Perricone MD, Mojca Bizjak MD, Andrea Doria MD and Yehuda Shoenfeld MD FRCP MaCR

Sarcoidosis is a chronic multisystem disease with variable course resulting from the interaction between environmental factors and the immune system of individuals genetically predisposed. The evidence linking sarcoidosis with environmental triggers such as metals is increasing. We describe the case of a 44 year old female with a history of smoking since age 30 and previous mercury dental filling who presented at physical examination with numerous subcutaneous nodules. Laboratory data showed accelerated erythrocyte sedimentation rate and high titer of anti-U1 ribonucleoprotein antibodies (U1-RNP). Skin biopsy and chest X-ray suggested the diagnosis of sarcoidosis. In this report we illustrate the different causes involved in the onset of sarcoidosis.

Elena Generali MD, Carlo A. Scirè MD PhD, Luca Cantarini MD PhD and Carlo Selmi MD PhD

Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) is a chronic inflammatory condition associated with skin psoriasis and manifests a wide clinical phenotype, with proposed differences between sexes. Current treatments are based on traditional disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARD), and biologic agents and studies have reported different clinical response patterns depending on sex factors. We aimed to identify sex differences in drug retention rate in patients with PsA and performed a systematic research on MEDLINE, EMBASE and Cochrane databases (1979 to June 2015) for studies regarding effectiveness (measured as drug retention rate) in PsA in both traditional DMARDs and biologics. Demographic data as well as retention rates between sexes were extracted. From a total 709 retrieved references, we included 9 articles for the final analysis. Only one study reported data regarding DMARDs, while eight studies reported retention rate for anti-tumor necrosis factor (TNF) biologics, mainly infliximab, adalimumab and etanercept. No differences were reported in retention rates between sexes for methotrexate, while women manifested lower retention rates compared to men with regard to anti-TNF. We highlight the need to include sex differences in the management flow chart of patients with PsA.

Miriam Regev MD PhD and Elon Pras MD

Autoimmune diseases are classic examples of multifactorial disorders in which a large number of genes interact with environmental factors to form the final phenotype. Identification of the genes involved in these diseases is a daunting challenge. Initially the search involved the candidate approach where polymorphisms in suspected genes were tested for association in large cohorts of patients and controls. Today, the most widely used method is genome-wide association studies (GWAS), a method based on screening large panels of patients and controls with hundreds of thousands of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), with microarray-based technology. Unique families in which autoimmune diseases are caused by single genes are another alternative. The identification of candidate genes is often followed by studies that provide biologic plausibility for the findings. The widely expanding list of genes involved in autoimmune conditions show that the same genes frequently underlie the pathogenesis of different autoimmune diseases. Despite all available resources, the main void of heritability in autoimmune conditions is yet to be discovered. Identification of these genes will help define new biological pathways and identify novel targets for the development of new therapeutic drugs.

Gian Domenico Sebastiani MD PhD, Immacolata Prevete MD, Annamaria Iuliano MD and Giovanni Minisola MD

Background: Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease with a high degree of variability at onset, making it difficult to reach a correct and prompt diagnosis.

Objectives: To present the difficulties faced by the clinician in making a SLE diagnosis, based on the characteristics at study entry of an Italian cohort of SLE patients with recent onset as compared to two similar cohorts.

Methods: Beginning on 1 January 2012 all patients with a diagnosis of SLE (1997 ACR criteria) and a disease duration less than 12 months were consecutively enrolled in a multicenter prospective study. Information on clinical and serological characteristics was collected at study entry and every 6 months thereafter.

Results: Our cohort consisted of 122 patients, of whom 103 were females. Among the manifestations included in the 1997 American College of Rheumatology (ACR) criteria, cutaneous, articular and hematologic symptoms were the most prevalent symptoms at study entry.

Conclusions: Data from the literature confirm that the diagnosis of SLE is challenging, and that SLE is a severe disease even at onset when a prompt diagnosis is necessary for initiating the appropriate therapy.

S. Sohail Ahmed MD, Emanuele Montomoli PhD, Franco Laghi Pasini MD and Lawrence Steinman MD

Despite the very high benefit-to-risk ratio of vaccines, the fear of negative side effects has discouraged many people from getting vaccinated, resulting in the reemergence of previously controlled diseases such as measles, pertussis and diphtheria. This fear has been amplified more recently by multiple epidemiologic studies that confirmed the link of an AS03-adjuvanted pandemic influenza vaccine (Pandemrix®, GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals, Germany) used in Europe during the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic [A(H1N1)pdm09] with the development of narcolepsy, a chronic sleep disorder, in children and adolescents. However, public misperceptions of what adjuvants are and why they are used in vaccines has created in some individuals a closed “black box” attitude towards all vaccines. The focus of this review article is to revisit this “black box” using the example of narcolepsy associated with the European AS03-adjuvanted pandemic influenza vaccine.

Howard Amital MD MHA

The increasing use of computerized medical records has made the clinical data of the entire population available for epidemiological research. The resultant accessibility to this information mandates careful adaptions of ethical guidelines regarding the handling of clinical data. At the same time it grants a unique opportunity to explore the clinical nature of health and disease in large populations across all of society’s strata, socioeconomic levels, ethnicities, and geographic locations regardless of their vicinity or distance to tertiary care centers. Analysis of large databases allows us to learn the public‘s behavior towards medical services and to investigate how medical interventions affect outcomes over time. Moreover, interaction between different co-morbidities can also be better understood by large population studies. The huge numbers of patients involved in these studies provide a good model of multivariate analysis, a statistical tool that by following proper population adjustments underlines the true independent associations between different conditions. Nevertheless, the limitations of these studies should be borne in mind, such as in-built imprecision of diagnoses, incompleteness of the medical data, and the fact that these databases were initially planned for clinical and not investigational use. 

Adam Mazurek MD, Teresa Iwaniec PhD, Maria Olszowska MD PhD, Carlo Perricone MD PhD, Barbara Markiewicz MD, Piotr Podolec MD PhD, Jacek Musial MD PhD and Wojciech Plazak MD PhD

Background: The role of autoimmune factors in the etiology of coronary artery disease (CAD) was suggested in numerous studies but has not been definitively determined.

Objectives: To assess the possible influence of antiphospholipid and antinuclear antibodies on atherosclerosis development in young patients after myocardial revascularization procedures.

Methods: The study group included 39 patients younger than 45 years with coronary artery disease (CAD) who underwent myocardial revascularization. Serum levels of antiphospholipid (aPL), antinuclear (ANA) and antineutrophil cytoplasmatic (ANCA) antibodies were tested within 1 month after the procedure.

Results: All three types of aPL were significantly higher in CAD patients when compared to healthy controls: anti-β2-glycoprotein I (aβ2GPI), both immunoglobulin (Ig)G and IgM classes (median 4.10 SGU, range 3.45–21.63 vs. 0.76, 0.12–6.01, P < 0.001, and 2.82 SGU, 1.44–11.70 vs. 1.08, 0.44–3.64, P < 0.001, respectively); anticardiolipin antibodies (aCL) both IgG and IgM classes (3.13 GPL, 1.32–14.03 vs. 2.42, 0.96–18.45, P = 0.0037, and 6.94 MPL, 1.90–26.40 vs. 4.32, 1.9–28.73, P < 0.008, respectively); and lupus anticoagulant (LA) (27.7% vs. 0%, P = 0.005). ANA were elevated in one patient and ANCA in 23 (60%). The levels of aPL did not correlate with the presence of a clot in a coronary vessel detected during angiography or with exacerbation of coronary artery atherosclerosis.

Conclusions: In young patients with CAD who underwent myocardial revascularization the levels of aPL were significantly higher than in young healthy subjects. Thus, besides the classic risk factors for CAD, autoimmunity may play an important role in atherosclerotic plaque formation and progression.

Nicola A. Pascarelli PhD, Sara Cheleschi PhD, Giovanni Bacaro PhD, Giacomo M. Guidelli MD, Mauro Galeazzi MD and Antonella Fioravanti MD PhD

Background: Balneotherapy is one of the most commonly used non-pharmacological approaches for osteoarthritis (OA). Recent data indicate that some biomarkers could be useful to predict OA progression and to assess therapeutic response.

Objectives: To evaluate the effects of mud-bath therapy on serum biomarkers in patients with knee OA. 

Methods: The study group comprised 103 patients with primary symptomatic bilateral knee OA who were randomly assigned to receive a cycle of mud-bath therapy over a period of 2 weeks or to continue their standard therapy alone. Clinical and biochemical parameters were assessed at baseline and after 2 weeks. Clinical assessments included global pain score on a Visual Analogue Scale (VAS) and the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Index (WOMAC) subscores for knee OA. Cartilage oligomeric matrix protein (COMP), C-terminal cross-linked telopeptide type II collagen (CTX-II), myeloperoxidase (MPO) and high sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP) serum levels were assessed by ELISA.

Results: At the end of mud-bath therapy we observed a statistically significant improvement in VAS and WOMAC subscores. Serum levels of COMP, MPO and hsCRP did not show any significant modification in both groups, while a significant increase (P < 0.001) in CTX-II serum levels was observed in the mud-bath group after the treatment.

Conclusions: A cycle of mud-bath therapy added to usual treatment had a beneficial effect on pain and function in patients with knee OA. The evaluation of serum biomarkers showed only a significant increase of CTX-II, perhaps due to an increase of cartilage turnover induced by thermal stress.

Luca Cantarini MD PhD, Maria L. Stromillo MD, Antonio Vitale MD, Giuseppe Lopalco MD, Giacomo Emmi MD PhD, Elena Silvestri MD, Antonio Federico MD, Mauro Galeazzi MD, Florenzo Iannone MD PhD and Nicola De Stefano MD PhD

Behçet's disease (BD) is a multi-systemic disorder of unknown etiology characterized by relapsing oral-genital ulcers, uveitis, and involvement of the articular, gastrointestinal, neurologic, and vascular systems. The choice of treatment is based on the severity of systemic involvement, clinical presentation and the site affected, and includes corticosteroids, azathioprine, interferon, cyclophosphamide, methotrexate or tumor necrosis factor-alpha and interleukin-1 blockers. We present a case series of four refractory BD patients successfully treated with intravenous immunoglobulins (IVIG). All patients fulfilled International Study Group criteria. The patients’ mean age was 38.75 ± 12.09 years and mean disease duration 10.25 ± 8.5 years. Human leukocyte antigen B51 was positive in two of four patients. In addition to oral aphthosis, all patients suffered from genital ulcers and cutaneous BD-related manifestations; central nervous system involvement and arthralgia were found in two patients. Peripheral nervous system, gastrointestinal and eye involvement occurred in 25% of cases. In all patients, previously treated according to EULAR recommendations without reaching satisfactory results, IVIG induced immediate and sustained response over time without incurring any side effects. We propose IVIG administration as an additional effective and safe treatment option in patients with severe and resistant BD.

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