Bacteria in milk and beef linked to rheumatoid arthritis

Bacteria in milk and beef linked to rheumatoid arthritis


January 30, 2018


University of Central Florida


A strain of bacteria commonly found in milk and beef may
be a trigger for developing rheumatoid arthritis in people who are genetically
at risk, according to a new study.



A strain of bacteria commonly found in milk and beef may
be a trigger for developing rheumatoid arthritis in people who are genetically
at risk, according to a new study from the University of Central Florida.


A team of UCF College of Medicine researchers has
discovered a link between rheumatoid arthritis and Mycobacterium avium
subspecies paratuberculosis, known as MAP, a bacteria found in about half the
cows in the United States. The bacteria can be spread to humans through the
consumption of infected milk, beef and produce fertilized by cow manure.


The UCF researchers are the first to report this
connection between MAP and rheumatoid arthritis in a study published in the
Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology journal this week. The study,
funded in part by a $500,000 grant from the Florida Legislative, was a
collaboration between Saleh Naser, UCF infectious disease specialist, Dr.
Shazia Bég, rheumatologist at UCF’s physician practice, and Robert Sharp, a
biomedical sciences doctoral candidate at the medical school.


Naser had previously discovered a connection between MAP
and Crohn’s disease and is involved in the first ever phase III-FDA approved
clinical trial to treat Crohn’s patients with antibiotics. Crohn’s and
rheumatoid arthritis share the same genetic predispositions and both are often
treated using the same types of immunosuppressive drugs. Those similarities led
the team to investigate whether MAP could also be linked to rheumatoid


“Here you have two inflammatory diseases, one
affects the intestine and the other affects the joints, and both share the same
genetic defect and treated with the same drugs. Do they have a common trigger?
That was the question we raised and set out to investigate,” Naser said.


For the study, Bég recruited 100 of her patients who
volunteered clinical samples for testing. Seventy-eight percent of the patients
with rheumatoid arthritis were found to have a mutation in the PTPN2/22 gene,
the same genetic mutation found in Crohn’s patients, and 40 percent of that
number tested positive for MAP.


“We believe that individuals born with this genetic
mutation and who are later exposed to MAP through consuming contaminated milk
or meat from infected cattle are at a higher risk of developing rheumatoid
arthritis,” Naser said.


About 1.3 million adults in the U.S. have rheumatoid
arthritis — an autoimmune and inflammatory disease that causes the immune
system to attack a person’s joints, muscles, bones and organs. Patients suffer
from pain and deformities mostly in the hands and feet. It can occur at any age
but the most common onset is between 40 and 60 years old and is three times
more prevalent in women.


Although case studies have reported that some RA patients
suffer from Crohn’s disease and vice versa, the researchers say a national
study needs to investigate the incidence of the two diseases in the same


“We don’t know the cause of rheumatoid arthritis, so
we’re excited that we have found this association,” Bég said. “But
there is still a long way to go. We need to find out why MAP is more predominant
in these patients — whether it’s present because they have RA, or whether it
caused RA in these patients. If we find that out, then we can target treatment
toward the MAP bacteria.”


The team is conducting further studies to confirm
findings and plan to study patients from different geographical and ethnic


“Understanding the role of MAP in rheumatoid
arthritis means the disease could be treated more effectively,” Naser
said. “Ultimately, we may be able to administer a combined treatment to
target both inflammation and bacterial infection.”


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Materials provided by University of Central Florida.
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University of Central Florida. “Bacteria in milk and
beef linked to rheumatoid arthritis.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30
January 2018. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/01/180130123743.htm>.


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