Head of Division: Professor Asgar Ali Kalla
The Division of Rheumatology has several research interests relating to different aspects of the rheumatic diseases. Osteoporosis is an area of interest for many years and there is ongoing collection of longitudinal bone mineral density data in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Age-related bone loss at different skeletal sites is being prospectively studied in collaboration with the Department of Nuclear Medicine and the Endocrine Unit. Clinical drug trials are in progress to study the safety and efficacy of the newer non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), in collaboration with the GIT Unit. These newer COXIBS are being evaluated in patients with RA and osteoarthritis (OA). All of these include collaborative participation with the GIT Unit, where gastropathy is an outcome variable, measured by gastroscopy. Recently, the trials of coxibs have included cardiovascular outcomes as well. We have also been looking at SLE genetics in collaboration with the Hepatology Unit at UCT. Newer areas of research include the study of chronic tophaceous GOUT; community aspects of diagnosing and treating rheumatic diseases at CHCs; early rheumatoid arthritis; genetics of bone loss in SLE; and functional problems in ankylosing spondylitis. The rheumatic diseases unit provides in- and outpatient rheumatology services for the entire Western Cape region. Sessions are carried out at the Heideveld and Khayelitsha Community Health Centres 6 times a year. Training is provided on a continuous basis for medical students, allied health professionals, a senior house officer, two rotating medical registrars and two career registrars. Research is largely clinically orientated, but a laboratory-based approach is being used to study the genetics of SLE and the differentiation between flares and infection in SLE patients. Family studies have also been started in patients with SLE and RA. In addition, there is very significant involvement in clinical drug trials in rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus and osteoarthritis. Collaborative research is being carried out with the Liver Unit to study bone density in auto-immune hepatitis.