Did you know that much of the immune activity that goes on in your body takes place in your stomach and intestines? Your gut is where most bacteria can be found, and so your immune system is constantly busy trying to suppress the spread or growth of any harmful bacterial strains. Now, a link has been found between this immune activity in your gut and rheumatoid arthritis, a common autoimmune disorder. This lends more evidence to a growing body of research highlighting the vast importance of maintaining a healthy, strong community of “friendly” gut bacteria in your body, in order to maintain good health and fight off disease.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder, in which the body treats its own cells and tissues as harmful pathogens and attacks them. This immune attack on the synovial fluid and cartilage around the joints leads to painful swelling, reduced joint mobility, and a reduction in joint cartilage. Unlike osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis isn’t caused by wear and tear — it’s caused by the dysfunction of your own immune system.
Scientists and researchers at the NYU School of Medicine have found a connection between a species of gut bacteria and rheumatoid arthritis. The connection lies in the Prevotella copri bacteria, which lives in the intestines. The presence of this bacterium usually indicates the onset of rheumatoid arthritis, and the bacteria grow exponentially once the autoimmune disorder sets in. The reason why the bacterium grows so much is still unknown, as is the exact way that this bacterium is connected to rheumatoid arthritis.
Although Dr Littman stated “we cannot conclude that there is a casual link between the abundance of P. copri bacteria and the onset of rheumatoid arthritis,” he and his team are certain that there is a link.
The P. copri bacteria found in the stool samples of healthy individuals are genetically distinct from similar bacteria found in stool samples of those with rheumatoid arthritis. Seventy five percent of stool samples from those with rheumatoid arthritis had P. copri present, while only 21.4 percent of stool samples from healthy patients contained these bacteria.
The team plans to continue their research outside of New York, using this new information about gut bacteria and arthritis to further their search in development a treatments for this and other autoimmune diseases.