It is obvious that the intestinal microflora performs both a positive and a negative function. On the one hand, microorganisms play an important role in digestion and replacing the bacteria, on the other hand — they cause the development of allergies and obesity.
Results of a new study, conducted by researchers at the NYU Langone Medical Center, show that the composition of intestinal microflora influences the development of rheumatoid arthritis. The finding may be of great importance for medicine, because the causes of this disease were not revealed by the experts.
Rheumatoid arthritis affects the small joints of the limbs. It can lead to the destruction of cartilage and bones, and also cause complications. We only know that it is autoimmune disease. That is, the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues.
Investigating rodents, an immunologist Dan R Littman from NYU Langone Medical Center, and Diane Mathis from Harvard Medical School found that certain microbes in the intestines of animals influence the development of a special type of immune cells – T helper 17 (Th17). They destroy those pathogens, with which other types of T -helper cells didn’t cope. Additionally, researchers found a link between the increase in the number of Th17 cells and the risk of rheumatoid arthritis in mice.
Scientists supposed that the the development of arthritis in humans may also be associated with certain types of bacteria. The team of scientists studied the gut bacteria of 114 New York City residents. Some of them were healthy, others suffered from various forms of arthritis for a long time.
It was found that 75% of patients had bacteria Prevotella copri in their intestines. This kind of bacteria was found in 37 % of people, having chronic forms of arthritis, and only in 21 % of healthy patients.
Experts agree that the findings, published in the journal eLIFE, offer great opportunities for further study of the disease and for searching new means of prevention and treatment.
Now the researchers plan to conduct similar work in other parts of the USA , as the intestinal microflora of humans in different geographic regions may differ.
Moreover, they are going to find out, if it is possible to use certain types of microorganisms as biological markers in the treatment of disease.