Introduction: Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and ankylosing spondylitis (AS) are similar chronic inflammatory diseases whose definitive etiology is unknown. Following recent clinical and genetic evidence supporting an intertwined pathogenic relationship, we conducted a pilot study to measure fecal calprotectin (fCAL) and IBD-related serologies in AS patients.
Methods: Consecutive AS patients were recruited from a long-term prospectively collected longitudinal AS cohort at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Controls were recruited from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center employees or spouses of patients with AS. Sera were tested by ELISA for IBD-associated serologies (antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibodies (ANCA), anti-Saccharomyces cerevisiae antibody IgG and IgA, anti-I2, anti-OmpC, and anti-CBir1). The Bath Ankylosing Spondylitis Disease Activity Index, the Bath Ankylosing Spondylitis Functional Index, and the Bath Ankylosing Spondylitis Radiology Index were completed for AS patients.
Results: A total of 81 subjects (39 AS patients and 42 controls) were included for analysis. The average age of AS patients was 47 years and the average disease duration was 22 years. AS patients were predominantly male; 76% were HLA-B27-positive. Median fCAL levels were 42 μg/g and 17 μg/g in the AS group and controls, respectively (P < 0.001). When using the manufacturer's recommended cutoff value for positivity of 50 μg/g, stool samples of 41% of AS patients and 10% of controls were positive for fCAL (P = 0.0016). With the exception of ANCA, there were no significant differences in antibody levels between patients and controls. Median ANCA was 6.9 ELISA units in AS patients and 4.3 ELISA units in the controls. Among AS patients stratified by fCAL level, there were statistically significant differences between patients and controls for multiple IBD-associated antibodies.
Conclusion: Calprotectin levels were elevated in 41% of patients with AS with a cutoff value for positivity of 50 μg/g. fCAL-positive AS patients displayed higher medians of most IBD-specific antibodies when compared with healthy controls or fCAL-negative AS patients. Further studies are needed to determine whether fCAL can be used to identify and characterize a subgroup of AS patients whose disease might be driven by subclinical bowel inflammation.