Gut bacteria may cause, predict, prevent rheumatoid arthritis

By: | Published: July 12, 2016 1:19 PM

Your gut bacteria can predict your susceptibility to rheumatoid arthritis - a disorder that causes painful swelling in the joints - a discovery that may lead to personalised treatment for patients, researchers, including one of Indian origin have found.

Researchers identified intestinal bacteria as a possible cause for rheumatoid arthritis. (FE photo)Researchers identified intestinal bacteria as a possible cause for rheumatoid arthritis. (FE photo)

Your gut bacteria can predict your susceptibility to rheumatoid arthritis – a disorder that causes painful swelling in the joints – a discovery that may lead to personalised treatment for patients, researchers, including one of Indian origin have found.

Researchers identified intestinal bacteria as a possible cause for rheumatoid arthritis.

The study indicated that testing for specific microbiota in the gut can help physicians predict and prevent the onset of rheumatoid arthritis.

“These are exciting discoveries that we may be able to use to personalise treatment for patients,” said Veena Taneja from Mayo Clinic in the US.

Researchers summarised a study of rheumatoid arthritis patients, their relatives and a healthy control group.

The study aimed to find a biomarker – or a substance that indicates a disease, condition or phenomena – that predicts susceptibility to rheumatoid arthritis.

They found that an abundance of certain rare bacterial lineages causes a microbial imbalance that is found in rheumatoid arthritis patients.

“Using genomic sequencing technology, we were able to pin down some gut microbes that were normally rare and of low abundance in healthy individuals, but expanded in patients with rheumatoid arthritis,” said Taneja.

After further research in mice and, eventually, humans, intestinal microbiota and metabolic signatures could help scientists build a predictive profile for who is likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis and the course the disease will take, she said.

Based on mouse studies, researchers found an association between the gut microbe Collinsella and the arthritis phenotype.

The presence of these bacteria may lead to new ways to diagnose patients and to reduce the imbalance that causes rheumatoid arthritis before or in its early stages, researchers said.

In a different study, researchers treated one group of arthritis-susceptible mice with a bacterium, Prevotella histicola, and compared that to a group that had no treatment.

The study found that mice treated with the bacterium had decreased symptom frequency and severity, and fewer inflammatory conditions associated with rheumatoid arthritis.

The treatment produced fewer side effects, such as weight gain and villous atrophy – a condition that prevents the gut from absorbing nutrients – that may be linked with other, more traditional treatments, researchers said.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder; it occurs when the body mistakenly attacks itself. The body breaks down tissues around joints, causing swelling that can erode bone and deform the joints, they said.

The disease can damage other parts of the body, including the skin, eyes, heart, lung and blood vessels.

The findings were published in the journals Genome Medicine and Arthritis and Rheumatology.

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