According to a recent news release from the University of Louisville, researchers and clinicians have long known about an association between periodontal disease and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) but the microbiological mechanisms have remained unclear.
In an article recently published in PLoS Pathogens, University of Louisville School of Dentistry Oral Health and Systemic Diseases group researcher Jan Potempa, PhD, DSc, and an international team of scientists from the European Union's Gums and Joints project have uncovered how the bacterium responsible for periodontal disease, Porphyromonas gingivalis worsens RA by leading to earlier onset, faster progression and greater severity of the disease, including increased bone and cartilage destruction.
As the release states, the scientists 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 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.
Potempa 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.