Open Access Open Badges Research article

The phenotype and genotype of rheumatoid arthritis in the Democratic Republic of Congo

JJ Malemba1*, JM Mbuyi-Muamba1, J Mukaya2, X Bossuyt3, MP Emonds4, K Deiteren4, R Westhovens5 and P Verschueren5

Author affiliations

1 Department of Internal Medicine, Unit of Rheumatology, Kinshasa University Hospital, Kinshasa XI, Democratic Republic of Congo

2 Unit of Radiology, Kinshasa University Hospital, Kinshasa XI, Democratic Republic of Congo

3 Experimental Laboratory Immunology, Department of Medical Diagnostic Sciences, KU Leuven, Belgium

4 Histocompatibility and Immunogenetics Laboratory (HILA), Red Cross Flanders, Mechelen, Belgium

5 Division of Rheumatology, Department of Development and Regeneration, Neuromusculo-Skeletal Research Unit, KU Leuven, Belgium

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Citation and License

Arthritis Research & Therapy 2013, 15:R89  doi:10.1186/ar4269

Published: 19 August 2013



Little is known about rheumatoid arthritis in the black, particularly in Congolese, populations. Our objective was to describe the phenotype and genotype of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in Congolese.


All consecutive rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients attending Kinshasa University Hospital in a three-year time period were included. Demographics, clinical features and tobacco consumption were noted. Disease Activity Score (DAS)-28 based on the erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), Health Assessment Questionnaire (HAQ), anti-citrullinated peptide antibodies (CCP) antibodies and rheumatoid factor (RF) were determined. Radiographs were scored according to Sharp-van der Heijde. On a subset of patients and controls HLA-DRB1 typing was performed.


A total of 114 females and 14 males aged 51.2 ± 14.9 were included. Mean duration of symptoms was four years. Moderate tobacco consumption was reported in a minority of patients. DAS-28 at first visit was >5.1 and HAQ ≥0.5 in all patients. X-rays showed joint erosions and/or joint space narrowing, mostly of a moderate grade in 55.8% of patients. Anti-CCP and/or RF were present in 48.6% of patients with available data (n = 72) and in 3.0% of controls (n = 67). Radiographic changes and nodules were more frequent in RF or anti-CCP positive patients. One copy of the shared epitope was found in 13 patients (35.1%) and 3 controls (12.5%). Two copies were found in one patient (2.7%) and in one control (4.2%).


Congolese patients with RA consult long after disease onset. Despite this delay, the majority presents without major damage and is RF, anti-CCP and SE negative. We put forward the hypothesis that besides different environmental factors there is probably also a particular genetic risk profile in Congolese patients, different from the HLA-DRB1 shared epitope.

rheumatoid arthritis; phenotype; HLA-DRB1 genotype; DR Congo; Africa