Autoimmune connective tissue disorders are a significant health concern throughout the world with an estimated prevalence of 3% to 5%. They are associated with a variety of autoantibodies that play roles in their diagnosis, risk stratification, prognostication, and/or management. While some autoantibodies have been well-characterized for use in clinical laboratories, many more are in the research stage. Rapid transition from research to clinical practice, lack of clinical guidelines, and harmonization across a rapidly growing number of commercially available tests create numerous challenges to clinicians and laboratories.
This article briefly discusses common connective tissue disorders and their association with well-known autoantibodies, describes current methods used in clinical laboratories, and outlines their advantages and limitations in the context of these diseases.
Understanding the role of specific autoantibodies and various methodologies for autoantibody testing are important for laboratory professionals who may be introducing/repatriating new tests, updating existing tests, or advising clinicians/patients about testing options/results. Collaboration between laboratory professional staff and clinicians, around the advantages and limitations of each methodology, is also important in their appropriate clinical utilization.