The link between periodontal disease and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) has long been suspected. But until recently, clinicians were unaware of the microbiological mechanisms that connected the two inflammatory diseases.
Published in PLoS Pathogens, a new research study appears to have uncovered how the bacterium that causes gum disease, Porphyromonas gingivalis, exacerbates RA by facilitating earlier onset, rapid progression, and greater severity of the symptoms of the disease, including increased cartilage and bone deterioration.
The scientific team responsible for the study included group researcher Jan Potempa, PHD, DSc of the University of Louisville School of Dentistry Oral Health and Systemic Disease and an international team of researchers and clinicians from the European Union’s Gums and Joints Project.
The most important finding of the study was the identification of a unique enzyme, peptidylarginine deiminanse (PAD), which is produced by Porphyromonas gingivalis. In numerous lab studies, PAD, altered certain proteins in a form of arthritis that is similar to RA, leading to an immune attack. These attacks result in chronic inflammation, which is what destroys the bone and cartilage within the joints of RA patients.
In the paper’s conclusion, Dr. Potempa had this to say about the study: “Taken together, our results suggest that that bacterial PAD may constitute the mechanistic link between Porphyromonas gingivalis periodontal infection and rheumatoid arthritis…”