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Gum disease can contribute to rheumatoid arthritis

January 17, 2014
by Sandra Hoban, Managing Editor
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Researchers at the University of Louisville have linked the bacterium that causes periodontal disease, Porphyromonas gingivalis, to another chronic inflammatory disease—rheumatoid arthritis (RA). They found that the P. gingivalis bacterium can trigger early onset, a faster disease progression and increased severity.

In an article published in PLoS Pathogens, researchers found that P. gingivalis produces an enzyme, peptidylarginine deiminanse, or PAD, which can alter certain proteins into citrulline, leading to an immune attack. This results in chronic inflammation that destroys bone and cartilage in the joints.

“Taken together, our results suggest that bacterial PAD may constitute the mechanistic link between P. gingivalis periodontal infection and rheumatoid arthritis,” said lead researcher Jan Potemba, PhD, DSc, in a release.

Other studies have indicated that periodontal disease is more prevalent in people with RA and that the P. gingivalis bacterium is suspected to be responsible for early onset of RA.