Objectives: Currently there are no reliable biomarkers in the synovial fluid available to differentiate between septic and non-septic arthritis or to predict the prognosis of osteoarthritis, respectively. Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy is an analytical technique that allows a rapid, high throughput metabolic profiling of biological fluids or tissues.
Methods: Proton (1H)-nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy was performed in synovial fluid samples from patients with septic arthritis, crystal arthropathy, different forms of inflammatory arthritis or osteoarthritis (OA). The metabolic environment based on the low molecular weight components was compared in disease subsets and principal component analysis (PCA) was performed.
Results: Fifty-nine samples from patients with OA, gout, calcium pyrophosphate disease, spondylarthritis, septic arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) were analysed. NMR yielded stable and reproducible metabolites over time. Thirty-five different metabolites as well as paracetamol and ibuprofen were identified in synovial fluid. The metabolic profile of septic arthritis assessed by PCA was distinguishable from the other samples whereas no differences were seen in OA compared to crystal-associated arthritis, RA or spondylarthritis.
Conclusions: 1H-NMR is a fast analytic tool with possible implications in synovial fluid diagnostics. A distinctive metabolism is observed in septic arthritis whereas metabolites in OA are similar to those in inflammatory arthritis.