A newly published study is the first to link rheumatoid arthritis (RA), an autoimmune disease, with a specific species of intestinal bacteria known as Prevotella copri. The research team compared the gut bacteria (isolated from faecal samples) of patients with RA to those of healthy individuals. The researchers found that P. copri was more abundant in patients with newly diagnosed RA compared to healthy individuals or even patients with chronic, treated RA.
75% of stool samples from patients with newly diagnosed RA tested positive for P. copri compared to 21.4% of from healthy individuals, and 11.5% from chronic, treated patients. 37.5% of patients with with psoriatic arthritis also tested positive. Like many conditions related to pathogenic bacteria, the overgrowth of P. copri was associated with smaller amount of beneficial bacteria from the Bacteroides genus (meaning less good bacteria to keep these bad guys in check).
Why P. copri growth is so high in newly diagnosed patients with RA was also unclear since the researchers noted that the P. copri appears genetically different (different strains?) between those with newly diagnosed disease and healthy individuals.
Causation is also unclear. Does P. copri promote the development of RA, or does RA promote the growth of P. copri?
Nonetheless, even with all these unanswered questions, it gives us new insight into this debilitating autoimmune condition.
Source: Expansion of intestinal Prevotella copri correlates with enhanced susceptibility to arthritis
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