Some infections seem to offer protection against rheumatoid arthritis

Some infections seem to offer protection against rheumatoid arthritis

Urinary tract infections are no fun, but new research shows they may have a silver lining.

Along with infections in the gut and the genitals, U-T-I-s seemed to be linked with a lower incidence of rheumatoid arthritis.

Researchers from Sweden say their study of more than 6,000 people showed participants had a 29 percent lower risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis in the two years following an infection in the gut. Infections in the genitals were associated with a 20 percent lower risk, while U-T-I-s carried a 22 percent lower risk.

The researchers also looked for ties between rheumatoid arthritis and several other common infections: prostatitis, sinus infections, upper respiratory tract infections, pneumonia and tonsillitis.

Interestingly, no significant links were found between rheumatoid arthritis and these illnesses.

The idea that infections may be linked to the disease has been floating around for years, but so far it has not been conclusively affirmed or rejected. In recent years, a more specific concept has been proposed: that the microorganisms living in our guts may play a significant role in the development of rheumatoid arthritis.

Such a link seems like it would make sense, because the balance of microorganisms within the body is thought to contribute to inflammation.

And rheumatoid arthritis occurs when joint linings become inflamed.

It’s not clear exactly how the occurrence of gut, genital and urinary tract infections would decrease rheumatoid arthritis risk. It may have something to do with a balance of specific bacteria in the body or with medication used to treat such infections. Perhaps the relationship can be explained in some other way.

One thing is certain: It will be fascinating to see what science uncovers in the study of our bodies’ microorganisms.

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