Progressive arthropathy caused by recurrent joint bleeds is a severe complication in haemophilia.

We investigated whether biomarkers of cartilage and bone degradation, and inflammation were altered in haemophilia patients and whether these biomarkers could identify haemophilia patients with arthropathy.

Serum from 35 haemophilia patients with varying degrees of arthropathy and 43 age- and gender-matched control subjects were analysed. Biomarkers of cartilage degradation (C2M, COMP, CTX-II, ADAMTS5), cartilage formation (PRO-C2), bone formation (PINP), bone resorption (CTX-I) and inflammation (hsCRP, CRPM) were measured by ELISA. Arthropathy was assessed by radiological evaluation (Pettersson score) and physical examination (Gilbert score).

In patients with haemophilia, cartilage degradation, measured by C2M, CTX-II and COMP, was increased by 25% (P < 0.05) compared with control subjects. Levels of the cartilage degradation enzyme, ADAMTS5, were 10% lower in haemophilia patients (P < 0.05). Bone formation (PINP) was reduced by 25% (P < 0.05) in haemophilia patients, whereas bone resorption (CTX-I) was increased by 30% (P < 0.001). Acute inflammation (hsCRP) was increased by 50% (P < 0.01), whereas chronic inflammation (CRPM) was decreased by 25% (P < 0.0001). The hsCRP/CRPM ratio was 60% higher (P < 0.001) in haemophilia patients relative to control subjects. A biomarker panel combining C2M, CRPM, and ADAMTS5 could distinguish haemophilia patients from control subjects with 85.3% accuracy (P < 0.0001). We found no strong correlation between biomarkers and radiological and physical examination of the joint.

Biomarkers detect increased cartilage and bone degradation, and altered inflammatory activity in haemophilia patients with arthropathy. These biomarkers could potentially be used to identify patients with progressing joint disease.