In a new study, researchers have found evidence that antibiotic usage is linked to an increased risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.
The research was conducted by a team from Keele University and the Quadram Institute.
Rheumatoid arthritis affects 400,000 people in the UK and this study suggests it affects 26 in 100,000 people who have taken antibiotics.
Rheumatoid arthritis is likely to be caused by a complex mix of genetics and different environmental factors.
In the study, the team analyzed data from primary care medical records.
They found that the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis was 60% higher in those exposed to antibiotics than in those not exposed.
The risk increased with the number of antibiotics treatments, and how recently they were taken.
The team also found the type of infection was important.
Upper respiratory tract infections treated with antibiotics were more linked to rheumatoid arthritis cases, but this association wasn’t seen in untreated cases.
The analysis of the type of antibiotic showed that all classes increased the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis, so this suggests the risk could be derived from the antibiotics.
The team says this study isn’t a reason to stop taking antibiotics where they are needed.
But it does open up a new avenue of exploration to finding the triggers, which could be vital in the search for ways of preventing this condition.
Recent studies have linked antibiotic usage to an increased risk of other autoimmune conditions, including type 1 diabetes and autoimmune liver disease.
As well as targeting the bacteria behind infections, antibiotics affect the microbiome.
The microbiome is a complex ecosystem of microbes helps maintain our own health and plays an important role in modulating the immune system.
A number of small studies have found that the microbiome in people with rheumatoid arthritis is less diverse, but this is the first study that has investigated the effect of antibiotic usage.
One author of the study is Professor Christian Mallen, Head of School for Primary, Community and Social Care at Keele University.
The study is published in BMC Medicine.
Copyright © 2019 Knowridge Science Report. All rights reserved.