Investigating whether bacteria can disrupt the immune system leading to rheumatoid arthritis

Disease - Rheumatoid arthritis, enteropathic arthritis

Lead applicant - Professor Costantino Pitzalis

Organisation - Queen Mary University of London

Type of grant - Special Strategic Award

Status of grant - Active

Amount of the original award - £285,251.40

Start date - 21 September 2015

Reference - 21134

Public Summary

What are the aims of this research?

This research aims to discover whether mouth and gut bacteria can trick the immune system to attack the body’s own tissues, causing rheumatoid arthritis.

Why is this research important?

In rheumatoid arthritis the body's immune system turns against its own tissues. What exactly causes this to happen is as yet unknown, but increasing evidence points towards a role for normally harmless bacteria that live on and in the body. It appears that bacteria can make our immune defences attack our own tissues and, in the case of the joints, cause pain, inflammation and eventually disability. This study will investigate the relationship between bacteria, the immune system and arthritis. Understanding this relationship could lead to the development of new diagnostic tests and targeted therapies.

How will the findings benefit patients?

The results of this research could lead to the development of more precise diagnostic tests to identify at-risk individuals at a pre- or very early stage of disease. This will help prevent disease onset and maximise treatment benefits before damage occurs.