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Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is an inflammatory arthritis disease that strikes patients in their teens, 20s, or 30s. It can cause a complete fusion of the spine, leaving patients unable to straighten and bend.

For the past 30 years the only screening test for AS was the gene HLA-B27, then only 40% of the time AS cases were detected.

Researchers at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston, in conjunction with the British Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium, have successfully isolated 2 more genes that are involved with the crippling disease. Those genes are ARTS1 and IL23R. Now with 3 genes identified for the detection of AS, 70% of the cases can be detected.

As the search continues to discover the other genes involved with AS, researchers feel that within the next year the remainder of the genes associated with AS will be detected. That will mean someone who has a family member or blood relative with AS can be screened for the disease with a simple blood test and have confidence in the results.

The Spondylitis Association of American (SAA) oversaw the nationwide recruitment of patients and families for the study.