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Gum Disease Ups Rheumatoid Arthritis Risk

Update Date: Sep 13, 2013 02:57 PM EDT

Could gum disease overshadow future joint problems? While researchers have long known about a link between periodontal disease and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) - the microbiological mechanisms have remained unclear.

Researchers found that the bacterium responsible for periodontal disease, Porphyromonas gingivalis worsens rheumatoid arthritis by leading to earlier onset, faster progression and greater severity of the disease, including increased bone and cartilage destruction.

Researchers also found 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 laboratory. Peptidylarginine deiminans also alters residues of vertain 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.

In the latest study, researchers looked to see if another oral bacterium revotella intermedia for the same affect. However, the findings revealed that 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.

Researchers hope that the latest findings will provide insight into the treatment and prevention of RA.

The findings are published in the journal PLoS Pathogens.

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