There are many people out there who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis and although all the medical professionals out there have at least heard about it (if not dealt with patients suffering from it in numerous occasions), there are still many things that remain a mystery to the medical world when it comes to this disease.
The Mystery behind RA
Basically, the rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease which mainly affects the joints. However, it can start affecting the patient’s tissues and organs as well (including, but not limited to the skin, the lungs, the kidneys and the heart).
Most of the times, the disease starts to develop when the patients are in their middle age, but people of all ages can suffer from it (even children, in some cases).
Furthermore, studies have shown the fact that women tend to be more affected by rheumatoid arthritis than men are.
What causes the onset of the rheumatoid arthritis is precisely what makes it so mysterious even to the well-versed specialists in the field. Up to the point, scientists have not yet discovered which the exact cause of this medical condition is, but they have managed to find out many things that may lead to detecting the exact cause of the disease in the near future.
The most important thing they know now about this medical condition is related to the fact that it is an autoimmune disease (which basically means that the body’s own immune system attacks its own cells).
Gut Bacteria and Its Relationship with RA
The gut bacteria are almost as mysterious and as intriguing as the causes of rheumatoid arthritis. On the one hand, medical professionals have long known that this bacterium (encountered in the human intestines) is helpful for us because it helps with the entire digestive process and because it helps our body “sort out” the germs that may infect us. On the other hand though, the same bacteria have been more recently linked to allergies and obesity.
Now, the same bacteria are linked to the fact that the rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. Scientists believe that the gut bacteria is very much linked to how the human body (and not only the human body) develops a type of immune cell known as Th17.
When they observed some rodents, they noticed that those rodents with more gut bacteria in their bodies were also the ones with more Th17. Apparently, when gut bacteria is present in the body, it “trains” it to create more Th17, which eventually leads to the inflammation of the bones.
When the same scientists noticed this thing with rodents, they started analyzing human patients as well. In 75% of the cases where the patients had gut bacteria in their bodies, they also developed certain forms of arthritis (including rheumatoid arthritis).
This, however, is not yet enough to prove the fact that this bacteria is the only cause of arthritis, especially since human patients cannot be “administered” with the bacteria to see the results. Rodents, on the other hand, can be subjected to such an experiment, which is precisely what the scientists did.
While the rodents did not exactly develop arthritis (which may also be due to the fact that their bodies may work slightly differently than the human body), the scientists noticed that the guts of the rodents who were subjects of the experiment became inflamed.
This also means that the idea that the gut bacteria (P.Copri, to be more precise) can cause immune cells to develop in the gut and to affect the rest of the body through inflammation from then on.
A New Treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis
Although this new discovery is not yet the key to finding the exact cause of rheumatoid arthritis (and thus, to its prevention and treatment), it is a huge step made forward in this area. Up to the moment, the treatment administered to the patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis was not the best one.
While it could diminish the symptoms they experienced and it could make their life easier, there were serious dangerous involved to administering some of these drugs (for example, Remicade has been associated with the development of cancer and other very serious infections in the body).
The new discovery may lead to a much better way of treating patients suffering from this auto-immune disease and it could make for a historic moment in the medical world.
Until doctors manage to find the right answer to the riddle of the rheumatoid arthritis, patients are left with more hope regarding their treatment. Soon enough, if the gut bacteria theory is proven to be true, their situation may get much better than it was up to the moment.