A recent study found that the oral and gut microbiome were altered in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). RA is an inflammatory disease that generally affects the joints in one’s hand and feet and can eventually cause bone erosion and deformity. RA occurs when a person’s immune system attacks it’s own tissues and can be implicated in other parts of the body as well.
In the study published in Nature Medicine, the scientists sequenced fecal samples of 212 individuals. This 212 sample included 77 people with RA not undergoing treatment, 80 healthy participants unrelated to people in the study,17 RA patients as well as17 healthy relatives to match the 17 RA patients and finally, 21 patients with RA undergoing treatment with disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs). They also took dental and saliva samples from individuals with and without RA.
They found that the bacterial composition of RA patients differed from patients without RA however the patients undergoing DMARDs had microbiomes that more closely resembled the healthy control subjects. This was important because it provides support to the theory that RA is a disease that may be brought about or affected by pathogenic bacteria or a lack of other specific bacteria.
This result may be a step forward toward the development of therapeutics targeting the microbiome of individuals of RA. It also may be possible to better diagnose or even determine the prognosis of RA patients by studying their microbiome. Further work will be needed with larger patient populations but this is a positive development for treating and studying RA using the microbiome.