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). This test detects and measures anti-CCP antibodies in the blood.
Citrulline is naturally produced in the body as part of the metabolism of the amino acid arginine. However, in joints with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), this conversion may occur at a higher rate. Citrulline changes the protein structure and can trigger an immune response, producing autoantibodies against joint proteins. The CCP antibody test helps to diagnose RA and can be useful in identifying people with a more rapidly erosive form of the disease.
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 healthcare providers 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.