Gut bacteria may trigger arthritis
A novel study has uncovered a link between stomach bacteria and the development of rheumatoid arthritis in mice.
A team of scientists raised a group of mice in a germ-free environment. These mice had a lower number of arthritis causing antibodies. After three weeks the mice were transferred to a non-germ-free facility, and put on a diet which included parts of bacteria commonly found in the intestines. Within four days they developed severe rheumatoid arthritis.
Scientists suggest that this may have been due to the mice having a genetic susceptibility to rheumatoid arthritis, which is triggered by the presence of gut bacteria. When the bacterium was present, more T-helper white blood cells were released causing the immune system to react as if they were threatening cells. Rheumatoid arthritis ensued, inflaming the joints.
The team stresses that this study cannot be applied to humans until more is known. In particular it wishes to study the mechanism by which the bacteria promote the T-helper cells and the role of bacteria in causing other autoimmune diseases such as type-1 diabetes.