Analyzing the blood of healthy individuals may predict future autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. Researchers analyzed past studies and found autoantibodies (antibodies that attack the body's own tissue) are often apparent several years before an illness manifests. According to a recent study among people with rheumatoid arthritis , it was found that specific autoantibodies were detected more than four years before the onset of disease symptoms.In an analysis of blood samples from 132 military personnel diagnosed with lupus, researchers found antibodies appeared as early as 10 years before the first onset of disease.
In a study of more than 4,500 children, 12 had more than one diabetes-associated autoantibody. Half of the 12 children went on to develop type 1 diabetes within eight years. No child with one or no autoantibodies had diabetes. Thus based on the above studies it is seen that population-based screening for diabetes is effective. Several large trials are now underway in which individuals with two or more diabetes-associated autoantibodies receive immune-modulating therapy.
Researchers conclude saying that even if disease cannot be prevented, perhaps life-threatening but treatable conditions could be avoided, such as diabetic coma as well as severe acute complications of untreated Addison's disease (adrenal-gland failure) or Graves' disease (overactive thyroid gland).