Only 1 percent of the DNA found in our bodies is our own. The rest belongs to the bacteria that live in and on us. The human microbiome project began in 2007 with the goals of
characterizing these bacteria. The project has emphasized the bacteria found in the healthy human gut and comparing it to the the bacteria found in the guts of patients suffering from a variety of illnesses. The initiative has been particularly interesting to researchers in the autoimmune community because the gut is also the location of the majority of our body’s immune cells and tissues-the same immune cells and tissues that seem to turn against us in autoimmune diseases. The small room where Jose U Scher, MD, Director of the microbiome center for rheumatology and autoimmunity, spoke was packed to the point of researchers sitting on the floor to hear what he had to say.
learn more about the human microbiome project: http://www.hmpdacc.org/
Emerging Data in Humans
Seven years after the start of the human microbiome project, researchers are beginning to reveal connections between particular types of bacteria and the several types of arthritis. Dr. Scher discussed recent results that have shown that a particular bacteria, prevotella, is increased in the guts of new, untreated, RA patients. When the patient has received treatment, the prevalence of this bacteria lowers. Data also showed that while 13 percent of the general population will have a large amount of this bacteria in their guts, 75 percent of the Rheumatoid arthritis community seem to have a large prevalence of this bacteria in their guts. Other studies have shown that RA patients (and patients of many other diseases) tend to have a much less diverse population of gut bacteria than healthy individuals. Future research may lead to new therapies including drugs that target particular bacteria, strategies for altering the gut microbiome, or trying to replace the good things some of these bacteria produce in the gut.