New research has suggested a link between gum disease and rheumatoid arthritis. Scientists have discovered that bacteria associated with gum disease could also increase the risk of rheumatoid arthritis.
Professor Felipe Andrade, from John Hopkins University, explained that the findings may bring us closer to establishing the root causes of rheumatoid arthritis, an immune system disorder, which causes the joints to become stiff and sore.
Lead author of the study, which has been published in Science Translational Medicine journal, Dr Maximilian Konig, suggested that the study may play a significant role in helping to prevent and treat cases of rheumatoid arthritis, a condition that affects more than 700,000 people in the UK.
Natalie Carter, from Arthritis Research UK, said that there have been other studies that suggest an association between poor oral hygiene and an elevated risk of rheumatoid arthritis; however, this study is different because it identifies a specific strain of bacteria, which is thought to trigger symptoms in some individuals.
The team decided to carry out further research building on projects that analysed the role of a group of bacteria known as porphyromonas gingivalis. Researchers couldn’t establish a link with this group, so they searched for alternative strains, which could play a role. Their research led them to discover that a different infection, known as aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans, was common in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. It is thought that the presence of bacteria triggers the production of specific types of protein, which affect the function of the immune system. The team analysed 196 samples during the project; they found evidence of the infection in 92 samples.
Professor Andrade is now hoping to conduct further research and trials to see if one day, it could be possible to prevent some cases of rheumatoid arthritis.