Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), is a condition that can cause pain, swelling and stiffness in joints. It is known as an auto-immune condition.
Laboratory tests found a drug, currently in clinical trials for Coeliac disease and crohn’s disease, that was effective at repairing the gut lining and relieving the symptoms in rheumatoid arthritis.
Professor Claudia Mauri of UCL and the co-lead author of the study said: “We wanted to know what was happening in the gut and whether changes to the intestinal lining – which usually acts as a barrier to protect the body from bacteria – are a feature of the disease and contribute to its development.”
If the second clinical trial is deemed a success, an existing drug will be found to be effective and become available for RA patients on the NHS within three to four years.
The researchers found that, compared to healthy people, gut damage was greater even at the earliest stages of arthritis, and that the damage got higher the more the disease progressed.
Experts not involved in the study said the findings significantly increase our understanding of disease that could lead to the increase in efficacy of new treatments. Future treatments for the condition may be able to treat the gut in addition to the joints to help RA sufferers.
Maintaining healthy gut, both through diet and pharmacological intervention may be a valuable new strategy, according to Professor Mauri.