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Study Attempts to Link Gum Disease and Rheumatoid Arthritis

A former professor of medicine in the Division of Rheumatology at the University of Connecticut Health Center, Dr. Micha Abeles provides rheumatologic treatment to patients through his own private practice. Over the course of his career, Dr. Micha Abeles has completed research in a wide range of rheumatology topics, including rheumatoid arthritis and its treatment.

Scientists and physicians have long noticed a correlation between rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and gum disease, yet the connection has remained a mystery for the majority of that time. However, a new study has shed some light on the potential link between gum disease and RA after it discovered that a specific bacterium known to cause chronic gum infections also triggers the autoimmune response that is characteristic of RA.

Completed by researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, this new study looked at 196 gum samples of patients with RA and searched for the bacteria A. actinomycetemcomitans. Almost half of the RA patients showed evidence of this infection while just 11 percent of patients without gum disease or RA had the bacteria.

Although these results could indicate a possible link between the two health problems, researchers acknowledge that much more research is needed. Since more than 50 percent of participants with RA did not have this bacteria, both gum disease and RA could be affected by a different bacteria in the lung, stomach, or elsewhere.


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