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

Aim: 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.

Methods: 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).

Results: 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.

Conclusion: 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.

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