News in brief: Rheumatology researchers win NHMRC funding; Shared risk factors for inflammatory arthritis; MBS item for allied health worker case conferencing

Thursday, 4 Nov 2021

Rheumatology researchers win NHMRC funding

Research projects that may provide treatments for rheumatological conditions such as ankylosing spondylitis and SLE have been awarded funding in the latest round of 2021 Ideas Grant scheme.

Associate Professor Tony Kenna and his team at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) receive $986,267 for a project entitled “Defining the inflammatory T cell landscape in ankylosing spondylitis.”

“Our work will define exactly how T cells work in AS. This world-first knowledge will permit design of new treatments focused specifically on preventing harmful aspects of T cell function that contribute to AS, the researchers said in their proposal.

Dr Sarah Jones at Monash University Melbourne receives $1,076,433 for a research project entitled: “Achieving benefit without harm: a next-generation glucocorticoid replacement’ Dr Jones said the project would investigate the role of a natural anti-inflammatory protein, GILZ, that is increased as a result of steroid treatment.

“Our studies will lead to a strategy to develop a drug that increases GILZ without the use of steroids, bringing about the protective effects of steroids without the harmful side effects,” her proposal said.

Full details of all grant results are available at the NHMRC website.

Shared risk factors for inflammatory arthritis

Inflammatory conditions share some predisposing risk factors including infections, lifestyle and metabolic factors.

Parallel case-control studies of psoriatic arthritis (PsA), psoriasis (PsO), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and ankylosing spondylitis (AS) identified shared metabolic risk factors, in particular obesity in PsO and PsA, and myocardial infarction in PsO and RA.

“Lifestyle factors, including smoking and alcohol consumption, were commonly identified as risk factors across different diseases though the strength of association was variable,” the study said.

Pharyngitis and skin infections were significantly associated with the development of PsA, and GI infections were associated with the development of AS. The study also found statin use was inversely associated with all four inflammatory conditions.

“It may be that patients who receive statins are different in other ways. For example, they may be receiving better preventive care or may have differences in lifestyle factors,” the study said.

The study said future cohort studies were needed to further explore the causal effects of the identified predictors.

“Additionally, these future studies will examine the positive predictive value of combinations of these risk factors in identifying patients with early inflammatory disease. Such combinations of risk factors can then be used in trials to enroll high-risk patients in intervention studies aiming to prevent disease.”

Read more in The Journal of Rheumatology

MBS item for allied health worker case conferencing

New Medicare items will allow allied health professionals to be reimbursed for taking part in case conferences to support people with chronic diseases or young children with developmental disorders.

From 1 November allied health professionals will be paid to attend multidisciplinary conferences held by the patient’s regular doctor – in person, via video conference or phone –to discuss diagnosis, care and treatment plans.

The new items are for eligible allied health professionals participating in multidisciplinary case conferences for people with chronic disease under the care of a General Practitioner as part of Team Care Arrangements, as well as children aged under 13 years under the care of a specialist, consultant physician or GP to provide early diagnosis and treatment of autism or any other pervasive developmental disorders.

For chronic disease management, eligible professionals include: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health practitioners and health workers, audiologists, chiropractors, diabetes educators, dietitians, exercise physiologists, mental health workers, occupational therapists, osteopaths, physiotherapists, podiatrists, psychologists and speech pathologists.

For children with pervasive developmental disorders: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health practitioners and health workers, audiologists, mental health nurses, mental health workers, occupational therapists, optometrists, orthoptists, physiotherapists, psychologists and speech pathologists can take part.

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