Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Font Size

Gene Discovery May Help Guide Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment

WebMD Health News

Aug. 31, 2000 -- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a deforming, crippling disease that can lead to disability. But now, Canadian researchers have discovered a gene that can predict who will get the severe form of the disease and could help decide who needs aggressive treatment.

The Canadians, led by Abbas Khani-Hanjani, PhD, say that mutations on the interferon-gamma gene -- one of the major players in the body's immune system -- match up nicely with both severe rheumatoid arthritis and the mild form of the disease. The researchers report their findings in the Sept. 2 issue of The Lancet.

RA attacks the joints, most commonly the hands, wrists and knees. In its most severe forms it swells and distorts the joints, making movement painful and sometimes impossible. About 1-2% of the population has RA, but it is more likely to attack women than men.

Lead author Khani-Hanjani tells WebMD that the association reported by his team is the "strongest association ever reported." He says it is much stronger than previously reported genetic links.

Almost 75% of people with RA that had one type of the gene had severe RA, but few people with mild RA possessed this gene.

On the other hand, close to 65% of people with mild disease had another form of the same gene, while very few severe arthritis patients had this gene.

Co-author Andrew Chalmers, MD, associate professor of medicine at the University of Vancouver, tells WebMD that work is already underway to attempt to confirm the findings in a larger study, which will include several centers in the U.S. "We have enrolled about 400 patients thus far," he says. He says it "will be at least a year before we have results from this larger study."

In an editorial accompanying the study, W.E.R. Ollier of Manchester University Medical School in Manchester, England, writes that the results of the Canadian study are surprising because the association is so powerful. People with the "severe" form of the disease were 20 times more likely to develop severe rheumatoid arthritis. Previously discovered genes only increased the risk by 5-10 times.

Today on WebMD

rubbing hands
Avoid these 6 common mistakes.
mature couple exercising
Decrease pain, increase energy.
mature woman threading needle
How much do you know?
Swelling, fatigue, pain, and more.
Lucille Ball
Hand bones X-ray
prescription pills
Woman massaging her neck
woman roasting vegetables in oven
Woman rubbing shoulder
Working out with light weights