DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, affecting more than 32.5 million adults in the U.S.

“It’s really a joint deterioration that occurs that leads to the loss of function of the joint, but it affects the whole joint,” said Dr. Virginia Kraus, Professor of Medicine at Duke University.

Kraus says there is a tremendous need to develop new treatments for people with osteoarthritis.

“Currently all we have are treatments to take care of pain but nothing to actually slow or stop the disease,” she said.

This prompted Duke researchers to look into this further.

A Duke Health study found a new blood test is more accurate than current methods in identifying people with high risk of progressive osteoarthritis in the knee.

(study: https://corporate.dukehealth.org/news/new-blood-test-more-accurate-identifying-osteoarthritis-progression)

Kraus, who is also senior author of the study, says this could be an important tool for researchers to get the right patients into clinical trial to test the benefits of new therapies.

“If there are no people progressing, they can’t tell if their drug worked or not because they didn’t have any people that needed it in the trial,” Kraus said. “So, it helps them to figure out who to enroll in the trial and therefore make it possible to develop new drugs which is what we really need.”

The new blood test isn’t clinically available yet, but Kraus is hopeful it could be a game-changer for patients down the road.

“The thing that excites us greatly is the chance of actually identifying people really early before they have any problems and knowing how to then treat them early would be so exciting as opposed to waiting until the pain or the x-ray abnormality shows up,” Kraus said. 

Osteoarthritis affects 10% of men and 13% of women over 60 and is a major cause of disability.