An automated commercial screening test developed by researchers from Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC) might help better diagnose scleroderma. The test will increase the percentage of correct diagnosis to up to 40 percent. The study will be presented at the Annual Scientific Meeting of the American College of Rheumatology on Wednesday, November 10th.

Immunofluorescence antinuclear antibody (IF-ANA) testing is recommended by the American College of Rheumatology in order to help in detecting the actual presence of scleroderma specific antinuclear antibodies. The manifestation of the disease can be found with the antibodies. The outcome of scleroderma and the best clinical course can be predicted.

Over 200 scleroderma patients tested by commercial laboratories at the Georgetown scleroderma clinic were evaluated by the GUMC researchers. They understood the accuracy of the tests and evaluated the process.

"The NEW ANA testing, that is the ANA test without immunofluorescence, failed to identify patients with a particular subset of scleroderma specific antinuclear antibodies and other patterns that are picked up with IF ANA testing. This finding was significant," says Victoria K Shanmugam, MBBS, MRCP, assistant professor in the Division of Rheumatology, Immunology and Allergy who presented the findings.

The NEW ANA results of 183 scleroderma patients were unavailable. "Given what we know about the subsets that are not detected by the NEW ANA testing, it appears that as many as 40 percent of the scleroderma patients would have tested negative using the new commercial testing method," Shanmugam says. "If a clinician has clinical suspicion for scleroderma, they should order the immunofluorescent ANA."