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Gut microbiome could predict prognosis for rheumatoid arthritis patients, study finds

Rheumatoid arthritis & the gut microbiome
Rheumatoid arthritis & the gut microbiome 06:43

Trillions of microorganisms in our bodies, including bacteria, fungi, parasites and viruses, make up the human microbiome. A rheumatoid arthritis patient's gut microbiome may indicate whether the condition will improve over time, according to a recent study published in Genome Medicine shows. 

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic used gut microbiome data and artificial intelligence to predict clinical outcomes with an accuracy of 90%.

"There's microbiome on the skin, in the lungs, everywhere," said Dr. Bob Lahita, director of the Institute for Autoimmune and Rheumatic Diseases at St. Joseph Health and author of the forthcoming book "Immunity Strong," to CBSN. "And they stimulate the immune system. They actually are involved in the development of our nervous system and our brain and they're the main source of vitamins, like vitamin K and vitamin B. They also protect our bowels from infection and from organisms going into our bloodstream."

For patients with rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic autoimmune disease that causes inflammation in the body, Lahita said probiotics in the gut "are really, really important to controlling — believe it or not — the course of this disease." 

Researchers collected two stool samples from 32 patients with rheumatoid arthritis about 6 to 12 months apart, and different microbiome traits were discovered for patients who showed clinical improvement and for those who did not. 

The study could change future treatments for rheumatoid arthritis, Lahita said. 

"And we're just learning about this," he said, adding that researchers and doctors could potentially eliminate specific strains of bacteria in the gut. 

Many people already take either prebiotics and probiotics to help their health — or both.

"Prebiotics, setting up your bowel for the proper organisms going forward — and they claim it's a real boon to their health. And the second is probiotics a lot of people take, such as yogurt and other kinds of bacterial seeding, that they can use to make their bowels more efficient," said Lahita. "And this all has an effect on your disease."

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