Bacteria living in the intestinal tract can affect the risk of rheumatoid arthritis.
More than 1.5 million Americans have rheumatoid arthritis, a disorder that causes painful swelling in the joints. Scientists have a limited understanding of the processes that trigger the disease. Dr. Taneja and her team identified intestinal bacteria as a possible cause; their studies indicate 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 personalize treatment for patients,” Dr. Taneja says.
The paper published in Genome Medicine summarizes 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 noted 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,” Dr. Taneja says.
Implications for predicting and preventing rheumatoid arthritis
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, Dr. Taneja says.
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