Perinuclear antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibodies have recently been demonstrated in the sera of patients with inflammatory bowel disease. Three hundred and sixty six sera obtained from 120 patients with ulcerative colitis, 105 patients suffering from Crohn's disease and 49 non-inflammatory bowel disease controls were tested in two laboratories, using an indirect immunofluorescence assay. In addition, a fixed-neutrophil enzyme linked immunoadsorbent assay (ELISA) was evaluated in one of the two laboratories. The results in the immunofluorescence test showed a high degree of correlation between the two laboratories (Kappa coefficient = 0.8). Ninety five of the 120 (79%) ulcerative colitis patients had a positive test whereas only 14 of the 105 (13%) patients with Crohn's disease were positive. Sera from four patients suffering from primary sclerosing cholangitis were positive as well as four of the 45 control sera (9%). The sensitivity of the perinuclear antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibody immunofluorescence test for the diagnosis of ulcerative colitis was 0.75 with a specificity of 0.88 and a positive predictive value of 0.88 (all sera). In the ELISA technique 37 of 94 ulcerative colitis sera and one of the 68 Crohn's disease sera were positive. In the control group only one of the patients suffering from primary sclerosing cholangitis reacted positively (32 non-inflammatory bowel disease sera tested). The ELISA technique had a high specificity (0.97), but a low sensitivity (0.39). There was no relation of perinuclear antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibodies in ulcerative colitis patients or in Crohn's disease patients with disease activity, duration of illness, localisation, extent of disease, previous bowel operations or medical treatment. The clinical significance of perinuclear antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibody positive and negative subsets in both groups of patients thus remains unexplained. Our study confirms that determination of serum antineutrophil cytoplasmatic antibodies in patients with inflammatory bowel disease may differentiate ulcerative colitis from Crohn's disease. Further immunological studies are needed to explain the absence of these antibodies in a subset of ulcerative colitis patients and their role in the pathogenesis of the disease.
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