Study finds bacteria in milk linked to rheumatoid arthritis

January 30, 2018, University of Central Florida
Saleh Naser and his team UCF College of Medicine researchers has discovered a link between rheumatoid arthritis and Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis, known as MAP, a bacteria found in about half the cows in the United States. Credit: UCF College of Medicine

A strain of bacteria commonly found in milk and beef may be a trigger for developing rheumatoid arthritis in people who are genetically at risk, according to a new study from the University of Central Florida.

A team of UCF College of Medicine researchers has discovered a link between and Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis, known as MAP, a bacteria found in about half the cows in the United States. The bacteria can be spread to humans through the consumption of infected milk, beef and produce fertilized by cow manure.

The UCF researchers are the first to report this connection between MAP and rheumatoid in a study published in the Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology journal this week. The study, funded in part by a $500,000 grant from the Florida Legislative, was a collaboration between Saleh Naser, UCF infectious disease specialist, Dr. Shazia Bég, rheumatologist at UCF's physician practice, and Robert Sharp, a biomedical sciences doctoral candidate at the medical school.

Naser had previously discovered a connection between MAP and Crohn's disease and is involved in the first ever phase III-FDA approved clinical trial to treat Crohn's with antibiotics. Crohn's and rheumatoid arthritis share the same genetic predispositions and both are often treated using the same types of immunosuppressive drugs. Those similarities led the team to investigate whether MAP could also be linked to rheumatoid arthritis.

"Here you have two inflammatory diseases, one affects the intestine and the other affects the joints, and both share the same genetic defect and treated with the same drugs. Do they have a common trigger? That was the question we raised and set out to investigate," Naser said.

For the study, Bég recruited 100 of her patients who volunteered clinical samples for testing. Seventy-eight percent of the patients with rheumatoid arthritis were found to have a mutation in the PTPN2/22 gene, the same genetic mutation found in Crohn's patients, and 40 percent of that number tested positive for MAP.

"We believe that individuals born with this genetic mutation and who are later exposed to MAP through consuming contaminated milk or meat from infected cattle are at a higher risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis," Naser said.

About 1.3 million adults in the U.S. have rheumatoid arthritis - an autoimmune and inflammatory disease that causes the immune system to attack a person's joints, muscles, bones and organs. Patients suffer from pain and deformities mostly in the hands and feet. It can occur at any age but the most common onset is between 40 and 60 years old and is three times more prevalent in women.

Although case studies have reported that some RA patients suffer from Crohn's disease and vice versa, the researchers say a national study needs to investigate the incidence of the two diseases in the same patients.

"We don't know the cause of rheumatoid arthritis, so we're excited that we have found this association," Bég said. "But there is still a long way to go. We need to find out why MAP is more predominant in these patients - whether it's present because they have RA, or whether it caused RA in these patients. If we find that out, then we can target treatment toward the MAP bacteria."

The team is conducting further studies to confirm findings and plan to study patients from different geographical and ethnic backgrounds.

"Understanding the role of MAP in rheumatoid arthritis means the could be treated more effectively," Naser said. "Ultimately, we may be able to administer a combined treatment to target both inflammation and bacterial infection."

Explore further: Menopause found to worsen symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis

Related Stories

Menopause found to worsen symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis

January 29, 2018
A recent study published in Rheumatology suggests that women with rheumatoid arthritis suffer a greater decline in physical function following menopause. After studying 8189 women with rheumatoid arthritis, researchers found ...

Rheumatoid arthritis during pregnancy may increase chronic disease risk in children

December 11, 2017
New research reveals that children born to women with rheumatoid arthritis face an increased susceptibility for certain chronic diseases. The findings, which appear in Arthritis Care & Research, should be used to increase ...

Maintaining sufficient vitamin D levels may help to prevent rheumatoid arthritis

November 20, 2017
Maintaining sufficient vitamin D levels may help to prevent the onset of inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, research led by the University of Birmingham has discovered.

Rheumatoid arthritis linked to an increased risk of COPD

October 19, 2017
New research suggests that rheumatoid arthritis may increase the risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The findings, which appear in Arthritis Care & Research, indicate that greater vigilance may ...

Scientists discover new mechanism that leads to inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis

March 2, 2017
New research findings published in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology, suggest that synovial CD4+ T cells that produce IL-21 contribute to joint inflammation by activating synovial fibroblasts in rheumatoid arthritis patients. ...

Bioactive lipids and rheumatoid arthritis

November 2, 2017
Sphingolipids – long-chain fatty acid molecules found in cell membranes – are broken down by sphingomyelinase enzymes into bioactive products such as ceramide. Growing evidence suggests roles for sphingolipid metabolites ...

Recommended for you

Researchers watch the knee degenerate and understand how osteoarthritis may begin

December 12, 2018
For hockey great Bobby Orr, a torn knee ligament ended his career at age 30. Orr had more than 17 knee operations, at one point having his meniscus removed—the cartilaginous tissue that helps stabilize and lubricate the ...

3-D printing offers helping hand to people with arthritis

December 11, 2018
Adaptive aids are expensive. Additive manufacturing, using low-cost 3-D printers, can save upwards of 94 percent for simple household items.

Potential arthritis treatment prevents cartilage breakdown

November 28, 2018
Osteoarthritis, a disease that causes severe joint pain, affects more than 20 million people in the United States. Some drug treatments can help alleviate the pain, but there are no treatments that can reverse or slow the ...

Patchy distribution of joint inflammation resolved

November 16, 2018
Chronic inflammatory rheumatic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and spondylo-arthritis (SpA) are chronic, disabling diseases with a poor outcome for loco-motoric function if left untreated. RA and SpA each affect ...

Defense against joint degeneration

October 30, 2018
During cartilage development, chondrocytes secrete the extracellular matrix (ECM) and embed within the same environment. During progressive joint disease, such as osteoarthritis (OA), dysregulation of the process can lead ...

Becoming more sensitive to pain increases the risk of knee pain not going away

October 30, 2018
Becoming more sensitive to pain, or pain sensitization, is an important risk factor for developing persistent knee pain in osteoarthritis, according to a new study by researchers at Université de Montréal and its affiliated ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

grandpa
not rated yet Jan 30, 2018
It should be mentioned that this bacteria, mycobacterium avium intracellulare, secretes a chemical that makes ecoli more virulent. It should also be mentioned, that many processed foods have emulsifiers in them that remove the natural mucous secreted in the intestines making it easier for bacteria to attack and make it through the intestinal barrier. It should be that the ecoli and other gram negatives live off of starches that are digested where ecoli and other gram negatives live. It should be mentioned that our diets could have a healthier mix that would have a better bacterial mix in the intestines that wouldn't allow ecoli and klebsiella and other bacteria to over populate. It should be mentioned that salt also increases interleukin 17 that increases the problems associated with these diseases.. It should be mentioned that there is a lot of sugar in the diet that allows fungus to overgrow in the intestines that also breaks the intestinal permeability. Get sunshine too.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.