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

background."

In this case, the bacteria cause the mice to make more of a type of white blood cell. The immune system reacts to these cells as threatening antibodies that in turn trigger rheumatoid arthritis, Mathis explained.

The research was funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

The notion that bacteria in the stomach can affect the development of autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis is not that farfetched since these bacteria have been linked to irritable bowel syndrome and other such diseases.

For example, stomach ulcers are caused by bacteria and successfully treated with antibiotics.

Dr. Nancy Klimas, a professor of medicine at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and a specialist in immunology, said that "this concept of the gut flora being important to human health is considered a rather radical concept, but it's been embraced more and more recently."

Klimas noted that a severe type of arthritis called reactive arthritis, formerly known as Reiter's syndrome, is caused by a genetic susceptibility and triggered by infection.

"You can cruise through your whole life with that little gene hanging out there and never ever have a health problem, but if you get certain acute infections those infections can trigger a huge inflammatory response and then you are left with this lifelong arthritis condition," she said.

In the future, changing the bacteria in the gut could prevent or treat some of these diseases, Klimas said. "This is an exciting new way of thinking, and it could certainly change the way we practice medicine."

Klimas speculated that the overuse of antibiotics may be changing the bacterial environment in the stomach and causing drastic increases in diseases.

"This raises the possibility that when you see illnesses that seem to be inflammatory or autoimmune, this flora of the gut may well be playing a role," she said.


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