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ObjectiveTo evaluate clinical, interferon and imaging predictors of progression from ‘At Risk’ to autoimmune connective tissue diseases (AI-CTDs).MethodsA prospective observational study was conducted in At-Risk of AI-CTD (defined as antinuclear antibody (ANA) positive; ≤1 clinical systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) criterion; symptom duration <12 months and treatment-naïve). Bloods and skin biopsy (non-lesional) were analysed for two interferon-stimulated gene expression scores previously described (IFN-Score-A and IFN-Score-B). Forty-nine healthy controls (HCs) and 114 SLE were used as negative and positive controls. Musculoskeletal ultrasound was performed. Progression was defined by meeting classification criteria for AI-CTDs at 12 months.Results118 individuals with 12-month follow-up were included. Of these, 19/118 (16%) progressed to AI-CTD (SLE=14, primary Sjogren’s=5). At baseline, both IFN scores differed among At-Risk, HCs and SLE groups (p<0.001) and both were elevated in At-Risk who progressed to AI-CTD at 12 months versus non-progressors, to a greater extent for IFN-Score-B (fold difference (95% CI) 3.22 (1.74 to 5.95), p<0.001) than IFN-Score-A (2.94 (1.14 to 7.54); p=0.018). Progressors did not have significantly greater baseline clinical characteristics or ultrasound findings. Fold difference between At-Risk and HCs for IFN-Score-A was markedly greater in skin than blood. In multivariable logistic regression, only family history of autoimmune rheumatic disease, OR 8.2 (95% CI 1.58 to 42.53) and IFN-Score-B, 3.79 (1.50–9.58) increased the odds of progression.ConclusionA two-factor interferon score and family history predict progression from ANA positivity to AI-CTD. These interferon scores may allow stratification of individuals At-Risk of AI-CTD permitting early intervention for disease prevention and avoid irreversible organ damage.

Original publication




Journal article


Annals of the rheumatic diseases



Publication Date





1432 - 1439