Results from multiple investigations have pieced together a picture of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) as a multifactorial disease that occurs in sequential phases. Certain alleles with the major histocompatibility (MHC) class II locus, specifically DRB1, confer a higher risk for disease. Despite risk factors such as this, individuals with genetic susceptibility to RA may remain healthy for a lifetime.
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A great deal of research has explored environmental factors contributing to the pathogenesis of RA. This research has included studies of the human microbiome—a diverse set of microorganisms living primarily in the human gut. While gut microbiota have been implicated in animal models of arthritis, the verdict is still out on the role of dysbiosis and human RA.
A new study suggests that intestinal expansion of Prevotella copri may be associated with the pathogenesis of RA. Jose U. Scher, MD, director of the Arthritis Clinic at New York University Hospital for Joint Diseases in New York City, and colleagues describe the results from their stool-sample analysis in eLIFE.1 The team compared the genome sequence of gut bacteria from patients with RA to those from healthy controls.
“Despite impressive advances in RA pathogenesis, diagnostics, and therapeutics, the etiology of this disease remains elusive. For many decades, gut bacteria have been implicated in inflammatory arthritis. Using novel technologies that help bypass the need for classic cultures, we have been able to describe an association of a particular species P. copri with an autoimmune phenotype,” says Dr. Scher.