Gut Bacteria May Influence Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment

Intestinal microbiota may help predict rheumatoid arthritis symptom severity and frequency.

Findings from a pair of studies suggest that testing for a specific microbiota in the gut can predict susceptibility to rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a disorder that affects more than 1.5 million Americans.

In the first paper, published in Genome Medicine, researchers analyzed RA patients, their relatives, and a healthy control group, in an attempt to find a biomarker that predicts susceptibility to RA. By using genomic sequencing technology, researchers were able to find an abundance of certain rare bacterial lineages that cause a microbial imbalance, and is found in RA patients.

“… 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,” said study author Veena Taneja, PhD.

Taneja noted that after further research in mice, and eventually in humans, intestinal microbiota and metabolic signatures may help scientists build a predictive profile for patients who most likely will develop RA, as well as the course the disease will take. In the second paper, published in Arthritis and Rheumatology, researchers treated 1 group of arthritis-susceptible mice with a bacterium called Prevotella histicola, and compared it to a group that had no prior treatment.

The results of the study found that the mice treated with Prevotella histicola showed decreased symptom severity and frequency, as well as fewer RA-associated inflammatory conditions. Additionally, the treatment also produced fewer side effects, such as weight gain and villous atrophy.

“These are exciting discoveries that we may be able to use to personalize treatment for patients,” Taneja said.