Is Gut Bacteria linked to Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis is a debilitating autoimmune disease that affects 1.3 million people in the United States. Mainly causing pain in the hands, feet, and wrists, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a difficult condition to cope with, as well as treat. Scientists recently linked the condition to a specific type of bacteria located in the intestines.

3d rendered anatomy illustration - hand pain

Researchers from NYU School of Medicine have linked the prevalence of a certain bacteria, Prevotella copri, to the onset of RA. The researchers observed that the bacteria cause an inflammatory response, which they believe may be linked to RA.

For this study, the scientists analyzed stool samples from 144 RA patients and compared them alongside a control group. DNA analysis showed that the bacteria Prevotella copri was more abundant in patients recently diagnosed with RA, whereas healthy individuals, and those who have been living with RA, had dramatically lower numbers of the bacteria.

Researchers were also able to build upon evidence from prior studies done on mice. These studies on rodents show that mice remain healthy when raised in a germ-free environment, but when exposed to certain gut bacteria, they begin to develop joint inflammation.

Our bodies are host to a plethora of different microbes. In fact, there’s an estimated 10 times as many microbial cells, than there are human cells. Most often, the microbes work with our bodies to break down food and fight off germs. This new research was a bit of a shock, as gut bacteria has never been linked to immune system function outside of the intestinal environment.

Moving forward, the researchers plan to expand their sample group in an effort to determine a causal relationship between immune deficiencies like RA, and the presence of certain gut bacteria.


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