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Gout - ancient disease, modern problem

MEDIA RELEASE

4 June 2008


Gout - ancient disease, modern problem


Described as the “King of diseases and disease of Kings”, gout is one of the most painful forms of arthritis that has plagued humans for centuries.

Caused by the build-up of crystals of uric acid in the joints, resulting in intense pain and swelling, a gout attack might last only a few days early on. However over time, if uric acid levels are not lowered, the attacks can grow longer and more severe, leading to very large crystals and destruction of the bone in the joint.

The prevalence of gout in New Zealand is twice that observed internationally and it is three times more common in Māori and Pacific Island populations.

“Many individuals suffer from refractory disease or fail to respond to current therapies leading to high morbidity and poor disease management,” says Dr Jacquie Harper, Head of the Arthritis Group at the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research, Wellington. “Improved prognosis and alternative treatments are required to rectify this situation.”

The Malaghan Institute Arthritis Group is attempting to identify the factors involved in the onset, duration and resolution of inflammation during attacks of gouty arthritis. This will lead to the development of new treatments for the underlying cause of the disease, including ways to identify susceptibility to inflammation in arthritis sufferers.

To strengthen the interface between the health and basic research sectors within New Zealand, the Malaghan Institute recently hosted a gout research workshop to showcase the basic research and clinical work being undertaken in this country with the goal of identifying ways to raise public awareness of this debilitating disease.

This meeting was an ideal opportunity for rheumatologist Dr Rebecca Grainger from the Arthritis Group to present preliminary clinical data from her PhD studies into gout, for which volunteers are still being recruited.

Workshop co-ordinator Dr Tony Merriman, from the University of Otago, emphasises the critical need for clinicians, researchers, nurses and public health organisations to work together to cross-fertilise ideas and dispel some of the myths surrounding gout. “Gout is often passed off in younger men as sports injuries, often meaning that years pass before treatment is sought. Early treatment is very important.”

Much has been learned over recent years about the triggers and inflammatory processes that give rise to gout. The time has now come for this information to be applied to the development of more effective therapies to end the suffering associated with this disease.


ENDS

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