Open Access Research article

Profile and course of early rheumatoid arthritis in Morocco: a two-year follow-up study

Karima Benbouazza1, Bahia Benchekroun1, Hanan Rkain1*, Bouchra Amine1, Fatiha Bzami1, Leila Benbrahim1, Ouafa Atouf2, Malika Essakalli2, Redouane Abouqal3, Maxime Dougados4 and Najia Hajjaj-Hassouni1

Author Affiliations

1 Rheumatology department, Mohamed Vth University Souissi, El Ayachi hospital, Salé, Ibn Sina University hospital, Rabat, Morocco

2 Blood transfusion and hemovigilance department, laboratory of immunology, Mohamed Vth University Souissi, Ibn Sina Universitary Hospital, Rabat, Morocco

3 Laboratory of Biostatistics, Clinical and Epidemiological Research, Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy, Mohamed Vth University Souissi, Rabat, Morocco

4 Rheumatology B department, René Descartes University, UPRES-EA 4058, Cochin Hospital, Paris, France

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BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 2011, 12:266  doi:10.1186/1471-2474-12-266

Published: 23 November 2011



This study aimed to establish the profile and the evolution of an early Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) cohort in the Moroccan population and also to search possible predictor factors of structural progression.


Patients with early RA (< 12 months) were enrolled in a 2-year follow-up study. Clinical, biological, immunogenetic, and radiographical data were analyzed at study entry and at 24 months. Presence of radiographic progression was retained when the total score was superior to the smallest detectable difference (SDD) calculated to be 5.4 according the Sharp/van der Heijde (SVDH) method.


Fifty one patients (88.8% women, mean age of 46.9 [ 24-72 ] ± 10.8 years, mean disease duration of 24 [ 6-48 ] ± 13.9 weeks) were enrolled in this study. 68.6% were illiterate and 19.6% reported at least one comorbid condition. The mean delay in referral for specialist care was 140 [ 7-420 ] ± 43 days.

Thirteen patients (62.5%) were IgM or IgA RF positive. HLA-DRB1*01 and DRB1*04 alleles were present respectively in 11.8% and 45.1% of patients.

At baseline, 35.3% patients were taking corticosteroids and 7.8% were under conventional DMARDs.

At 24 months, 77.2% received a median dose of 5 mg/day of prednisone. Methotrexate (MTX) was the most frequently prescribed DMARD, being taken by 65.2% of patients. 13.6% of patients had stopped their DMARD because of socioeconomic difficulties.

Comparison of clinical and biologic parameters between baseline and 24 months thereafter revealed a significant global improvement of the disease status including morning stiffness, pain score, swollen joint count, DAS 28 and HAQ scores, ESR and CRP.

Sixteen patients (34.8%) were in remission at 2 years versus no patients at baseline; P < 0.001.

Forteen patients (27.5%) had at least one erosion at baseline. Radiographic progression occurred in 33.3% of patients and was associated in univariate analysis to swollen joint count (p = 0.03), total SVDH score (P = 0.04) and joint space narrowing score (P = 0.03). No independent factors of radiographic progression were shown by logistic regression.


These study reports, provided for the first time in Morocco, a developing African country, a large amount of information concerning the profile and the course of early RA.

Patients who were receiving, for most of them, Methotrexate in monotherapy and low doses of corticosteroids, showed an improvement of all clinic and biologic disease parameters. Moreover, DAS remission was obtained in one third of patients and two thirds of the cohort had no radiographic progression at 2 years. No predictor factors of radiographic progression were found out.

These results should be confirmed or not by a large unbiased RA cohort which will give more relevant information about early RA characteristics and its course and will constitute a major keystone of its management.