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Rheumatoid Arthritis: How Antibiotics May Increase the Risk

  • Research suggests that antibiotics may increase the risk of rheumatoid (RA) arthritis in some people.
  • They also stated that higher levels of antibiotic use seem to be associated with a higher chance of developing RA.
  • They also said that it seems to matter what type of infection was treated with antibiotics.
  • A new study found that antibiotics can raise the risk of RA up to 60%.
  • Although it’s not clear if antibiotics cause or trigger the condition, there is an apparent connection.
  • Researchers also report that this risk increases with antibiotic treatment.
  • According to them, RA is more likely to develop if there was increased antibiotic use.

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It didn’t appear to matter what type of antibiotic treatment was used. The type of infection that the antibiotics were prescribed did have an impact.

Research has shown that RA and worsening symptoms are more likely to develop when antibiotics are used to treat upper respiratory infections.

There is no known cause of RA. However, there are many risk factors for RA, such as obesity, smoking and family history.

People with autoimmune conditions often have other problems, which can make it a risk factor for RA.

What was the conclusion of the study?

  • This was the latest research, which is known as a nested control study.
  • The data was taken from a database known as the Primary Care Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD).
  • Researchers looked at people who were diagnosed with RA in the period 1995 to 2017.
  • Researchers found that 22677 cases of RA were matched with 90,013 controls. The median follow-up was 10 years prior to RA diagnosis.
  • Researchers found that RA was 60 percent more likely in people who were exposed to antibiotics than those who weren’t.

Researchers wrote that there was a dose- and frequency-dependent association between RA and previous antibiotic prescriptions. All classes of antibiotics were associated to higher odds of RA.

The researchers found that people with upper respiratory tract infections treated with antibiotics were more likely also to develop RA.

“This fascinating work offers another glimpse into how complex understanding rheumatoidarthritis is, opening the doors for future research,” Christian Mallen PhD, a professor at Keele University, England, and a researcher on this study, stated in a press release.

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Reactions to the research

Kristine Blanche (PhD), the CEO of Integrative Healing Center, concurs with the findings.

Blanche stated to Healthline, “Yes, I believe antibiotic use increases the chance of developing all autoimmune disease by disrupting the balance in the microbiome within the gut.”

“Intestinal permeability is a disruption in healthy bacteria that causes intestinal dysfunction, which triggers the immune cascade. She said that this could make any patient more susceptible to autoimmune diseases. Her theories range from type 1 diabetes and RA to celiac diseases and other conditions.

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“If someone has a genetic weakness, such as the HLA-DQ2 or HLA-DQ8 genes that cause celiac disease, this could increase the risk of developing type 1 diabetes. Blanche advised that patients should avoid antibiotics whenever possible.

She said that taking good quality probiotics and fish oils, along with adhering to an anti-inflammatory diet (avoiding sugar, gluten, and dairy) can help protect the gut.

Healthline published a 2016 article about a possible link between juvenile forms and early antibiotic use.

A blog posted on the Arthritis Foundation website reveals that minocycline and antibiotics have been used in some cases of RA. However, the benefits are not yet proven.

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Christa S., a health coach in Salem, Massachusetts with RA, suggests that careful antibiotic use is a good idea.


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