Bacteria commonly found in milk and beef, Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis (MAP) may trigger rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in people with a genetic predisposition to the disease, according to a study from the University of Central Florida (UCF) in Orlando. These bacteria, which are present in about half of U.S. cows, can spread to humans through infected milk, beef, or produce that has been fertilized with cow manure.
One of the authors of the study, Saleh Naser, PhD, an infectious disease specialist at UCF, had previously identified a link between MAP and Crohn's disease and is involved in the first FDA-approved phase III clinical trial to treat Crohn's patients with antibiotics. Similar genetic predispositions are involved in both Crohn’s and RA, prompting this latest research.
The study involved 100 people with RA, 78 percent of whom were found to have a mutation in the PTPN2/22 gene – the same mutation found in people with Crohn’s – and of those, 40 percent tested positive for MAP. Learning more about the role of MAP bacteria in rheumatoid arthritis – a condition that affects about 1.3 million adults in the United States – could lead to better prevention measures and treatments for the disease.