Gut Bacteria May Help Predict/Prevent Rheumatoid Arthritis

Posted on July 14, 2016

Results from 2 recent studies suggest that the presence of specific gut microbiota may be useful in predicting susceptibility to rheumatoid arthritis. Over 1.5 million Americans suffer from the painful condition, an autoimmune disorder that causes the body to break down tissues around joints, resulting in swelling that can erode bone and deform the joints. The disease can damage other parts of the body, including the skin, eyes, heart, lung, and blood vessels. The current level of understanding of triggers for the disease is limited, but 2 studies, appearing in Genome Medicine and Arthritis and Rheumatology, propose that intestinal bacteria may be a cause, and that identification of specific types in the gut may aid in the prediction and prevention of RA onset. Lead author Veena Taneja, PhD, an immunologist at Mayo Clinic’s Center for Individualized Medicine, commented, “These are exciting discoveries that we may be able to use to personalize treatment for patients.”

In the study published in Genome Medicine, genomic sequencing technology was used to identify specific gut microbes that were present in low numbers in healthy individuals, but were more prevalent in RA sufferers. The presence of these bacteria may lead to new ways to diagnose patients and to reduce the imbalance that causes rheumatoid arthritis, and further research may lead to the development of preventative treatments, according to the authors. The second study, on arthritis susceptible mice, treated one group with the bacterium Prevotella histicola, and compared that to an untreated control group. Researchers found that mice treated with the bacterium had decreased symptom frequency and severity, and fewer inflammatory conditions associated with rheumatoid arthritis. Coauthor Joseph Murray, MD, a Mayo Clinic gastroenterologist, observed that since this bacterium is a part of healthy human gut, treatment is less likely to have side effects.

To access the painweek.org library of information about rheumatoid arthritis, tap here.

Read more about the research conclusions here.

The Genome Medicine article abstract may be read here.

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