Gum Disease & Arthritis

The bacterium responsible for periodontal disease, P. gingivalis, leads to earlier onset of rheumatoid arthritis as well as faster progression and greater severity of the disease, including increased bone and cartilage destruction. That is the finding of research done at the University of Louisville in Kentucky with an international tram of scientists.  The study was published in the journal PLoS ONE.

The researchers discovered that P. gingivalis produces a unique enzyme, peptidylarginine deiminanse (PAD), which then enhances collagen-induced arthritis (CIA), a form of arthritis similar to RA produced in the lab. PAD changes residues of certain proteins into citrulline, and the body recognizes citullinated proteins as intruders, leading to an immune attack. In RA patients, the subsequent result is chronic inflammation responsible for bone and cartilage destruction within the joints.

Jan Potempa, PhD, DSc and his team studied another oral bacterium, Prevotella intermedia for the same affect, but learned it did not produce PAD, and did not affect CIA.

"Taken together, our results suggest that bacterial PAD may constitute the mechanistic link between P. gingivalis periodontal infection and rheumatoid arthritis, but this ground-breaking conclusion will need to be verified with further research," he said.

Potempa said he is hopeful these findings will shed new light on the treatment and prevention of RA. Studies indicate that compared to the general population, people with periodontal disease have an increased prevalence of RA and, periodontal disease is at least two times more prevalent in RA patients. Other research has shown that a P. gingivalis infection in the mouth will precede RA, and the bacterium is the likely culprit for onset and continuation of the autoimmune inflammatory responses that occur in the disease.
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