At a Glance
Why Get Tested?
When to Get Tested?
A blood sample drawn from a vein in your arm
Test Preparation Needed?
The Test Sample
What is being tested?
Cyclic citrullinated peptide antibodies are autoantibodies produced by the immune system that are directed against cyclic citrullinated peptides (CCP). Citrulline is naturally produced in the body as part of the metabolism of the amino acid arginine. However, in some proteins, the conversion of arginine to citrulline leads to production of structures that form a ring called cyclic citrullinated peptide. This alteration and the production of CCP antibodies often occur in people who have rheumatoid arthritis (RA). There is speculation that the formation of CCP may play a role in the autoimmune inflammatory process seen in the joints of those with RA. The CCP antibody test detects and measures CCP antibodies in the blood to help diagnose RA.
RA is a chronic, systemic autoimmune disease that causes inflammation, pain, stiffness, and destructive changes in the hands, feet, and other joints throughout the body. It can affect anyone at any age, but it usually develops between the ages of 40 and 60, and about 75% of those affected are women. The course of RA and its prognosis are variable. It may develop and progress slowly or rapidly. It may go into remission in some people and, in a few, it may go away. Left untreated, RA can shorten a person's lifespan and can, within a few years, leave many of those affected too disabled to work.
There are a variety of treatments available to minimize the complications of RA, but they depend on making an accurate diagnosis and on beginning treatment before the development of significant joint damage. Rheumatoid factor (RF) has been the primary blood test used to detect RA and distinguish it from other types of arthritis and other inflammatory processes. However, the sensitivity and specificity of RF are not ideal; it can be negative in people who have clinical signs of RA and positive in people who do not. Studies have shown that the CCP antibody test has a sensitivity and specificity that is equal to or better than RF and is more likely to be positive with early RA.
The 2010 Rheumatoid Arthritis Classification Criteria from the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) includes CCP antibody testing, along with RF, as part of its criteria for diagnosing rheumatoid arthritis. According to the ACR, CCP antibodies may be detected in about 50-60% of people with early RA, as early as 3-6 months after the beginning of symptoms. Early detection and diagnosis of RA allows doctors to begin aggressive treatment of the condition, minimizing the associated complications and tissue damage.
How is the sample collected for testing?
A blood sample is obtained by inserting a needle into a vein in the arm.
NOTE: If undergoing medical tests makes you or someone you care for anxious, embarrassed, or even difficult to manage, you might consider reading one or more of the following articles: Coping with Test Pain, Discomfort, and Anxiety, Tips on Blood Testing, Tips to Help Children through Their Medical Tests, and Tips to Help the Elderly through Their Medical Tests.
Another article, Follow That Sample, provides a glimpse at the collection and processing of a blood sample and throat culture.
Is any test preparation needed to ensure the quality of the sample?
No test preparation is needed.
Ask a Laboratory Scientist
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NOTE: This article is based on research that utilizes the sources cited here as well as the collective experience of the Lab Tests Online Editorial Review Board. This article is periodically reviewed by the Editorial Board and may be updated as a result of the review. Any new sources cited will be added to the list and distinguished from the original sources used.
Sources Used in Current Review
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Temprano, K. and Smith, H. Updated 2011 December 29). Rheumatoid Arthritis. Medscape Reference [On-line information]. Available online at http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/331715-overview through http://emedicine.medscape.com. Accessed January 2012.
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Aletaha, D. et. al. (2010 September). 2010 Rheumatoid Arthritis Classification Criteria, An American College of Rheumatology/European League Against Rheumatism Collaborative Initiative Arthritis & Rheumatism Vol. 62, No. 9, September 2010, pp 2569–2581 [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.rheumatology.org/practice/clinical/classification/ra/2010_revised_criteria_classification_ra.pdf#search=%22CCP%22 through http://www.rheumatology.org. Accessed January 2012.
Pagana, K. D. & Pagana, T. J. (© 2011). Mosby's Diagnostic and Laboratory Test Reference 10th Edition: Mosby, Inc., Saint Louis, MO. Pp 76-77.
Henry's Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods. 21st ed. McPherson R, Pincus M, eds. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier: 2007, Pp 922-923.
(August 1, 2011) Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Rheumatoid Arthritis. Available online at http://www.cdc.gov/arthritis/basics/rheumatoid.htm through http://www.cdc.gov. Accessed February 2012.
(Updated December 2011) American College of Rheumatology. Rheumatoid Arthritis, Who gets rheumatoid arthritis? Available online at http://www.rheumatology.org/practice/clinical/patients/diseases_and_conditions/ra.asp through http://www.rheumatology.org. Accessed March 2012.
Sources Used in Previous Reviews
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Pagana, Kathleen D. & Pagana, Timothy J. (2001). Mosby's Diagnostic and Laboratory Test Reference 5th Edition: Mosby, Inc., Saint Louis, MO.
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Bizzarola, N. et. al. (2001). Diagnostic Accuracy of the Anti-Citrulline Antibody Assay for Rheumatoid Arthritis. Clinical Chemistry. 2001; 47:1089-1093. [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.clinchem.org/cgi/content/full/47/6/1089 through http://www.clinchem.org.
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