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Stomach Bacteria Might Trigger Rheumatoid Arthritis
Date:6/17/2010

Combination of genetics, environment caused mice to develop disease, study finds

THURSDAY, June 17 (HealthDay News) -- In early experiments with mice, scientists have found a bacteria living in the gut may trigger an immune response that can result in rheumatoid arthritis.

The gut of all mammals is populated with thousands of different types of bacteria, many of which are essential for developing a normal immune system. But some of these bacteria also appear to have a part in the development of autoimmune diseases, the researchers explained.

"This is an important, rather young, area of investigation," said lead researcher Diane Mathis, a professor of pathology at Harvard Medical School.

While these experiments in mice are still preliminary, and animal studies often fail to produce similar results in humans, the findings could lead to a new way of looking at autoimmune diseases and might even result in new ways to treat or prevent them.

"It may eventually be possible to ameliorate or protect from human autoimmune diseases, arthritis and others, by treating with probiotics, antibiotics or other inhibitors of bacterial products," Mathis said.

The report is published in the June 25 issue of Immunity.

For the study, Mathis and colleagues raised mice genetically prone to developing arthritis in a germ-free environment. These mice had fewer arthritis-causing antibodies than mice raised in a normal environment.

However, when the mice were put in a non-germ-free environment and had segmented filamentous bacteria placed in their stomachs, which is a common gut bacteria, the animals quickly started making antibodies and developed arthritis within four days, the researchers found.

"It is important to recognize that individuals do not 'catch' arthritis via bacterial infections," Mathis said. "Rather, the bacteria trigger a program to play out on a genetically susceptible
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