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Arthritis Rheum. 1998 Jan;41(1):58-67.

Prevalence of spondylarthropathies in HLA-B27 positive and negative blood donors.

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Klinikum Benjamin Franklin Free University, Berlin, Germany.



To determine the overall prevalence of spondylarthropathy (SpA) among whites.


To screen for SpA symptoms, such as inflammatory back pain (IBP), joint swelling, psoriasis, and uveitis, or a specific family history, questionnaires were mailed to 348 blood donors (174 HLA-B27 positive and 174 HLA-B27 negative). From the responding 273 persons (78%; 140 B27 positive, 133 B27 negative), 126 were selected for further evaluation based on the symptoms reported. Of this group, 90 persons agreed to undergo physical examination (71.4%; 46 B27 positive, 44 B27 negative). There was no difference between the B27-positive and -negative groups in terms of age (mean +/- SD 38.4 +/- 10 versus 39.5 +/- 11 years) and sex ratio (67% versus 68% were men). In addition, 58 donors (32 B27 positive, 26 B27 negative) agreed to undergo magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the sacroiliac joints. A diagnosis of SpA and ankylosing spondylitis (AS) was made according to the European Spondylarthropathy Study Group criteria and the New York criteria.


SpA was diagnosed in 20 persons: 19 of 140 B27-positive (13.6%) and 1 of 133 B27-negative (0.7%) subjects (15 male and 5 female). AS was diagnosed in 9 persons (7 male and 2 female; 45%), undifferentiated SpA (USpA) in 7 (5 male and 2 female; 35%), psoriatic arthritis (PsA) in 3 (2 male and 1 female; 15%), and chronic reactive arthritis (ReA; Reiter's syndrome) in 1 (male; 5%). On the basis of a B27 frequency of 9.3% among the population of Berlin (3.47 million persons), the estimated prevalence of SpA was 1.9%, AS was 0.86%, USpA was 0.67%, and PsA was 0.29%. The relative risk of developing SpA in B27-positive subjects was calculated as 20.7 (95% confidence interval 4.6-94.2; P = 0.001). Of 58 persons with IBP, sacroiliitis was detected by MRI in 15 of 32 B27-positive (46.9%) and 1 of 26 B27-negative (3.9%) subjects (P = 0.002). Four of these 16 donors did not fulfill diagnostic criteria for SpA.


With a calculated prevalence of 1.9%, spondylarthropathies are among the most frequent rheumatic diseases in the white population. HLA-B27 positive persons carry a 20-fold increased risk of developing SpA. AS and USpA are the most frequent SpA subtypes. Persons with IBP who are B27 positive have a 50% likelihood of having sacroiliitis.

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