Osteoarthritis: when gut dysbiosis jams the joints
World Osteoarthritis Day is held every year on September 17 to discuss and raise awareness on this disease that causes joint deformity. Could the solution lie in our gut microbiota as suggested by recent studies carried out on elderly women?
About this article
Osteoarthritis, a condition that makes joints seize up and become misshapen, blights the life of more than 3% of the world’s population, especially seniors. 10% of men and 18% of women over 60 are suffering from this painful and debilitating joint disease. It has multiple causes: genetics, gender, age, obesity, sedentary lifestyle… and maybe even the gut microbiota. We already know that our gut bacteria are involved in several inflammatory diseases, and they might also play a role in osteoarthritis-related inflammation.
How an unbalanced gut microbiota correlates with osteoarthritis
To learn more about the relationship between gut microbiota and osteoarthritis in elderly women, researchers compared the stool bacterial composition of 57 women aged 65 on average suffering from osteoarthritis and that of 57 healthy volunteers of the same age (control). The gut microbiota of patients with osteoarthritis was generally less abundant and less diversified. Some beneficial bacteria are less prevalent, such as Bifidobacterium longum which regulates the immune system, or Faecalibacterium prausnitzii, an anti-inflammatory bacterium known for its health benefits in humans. On the contrary, the content of some pathogenic bacteria such as Clostridium ramosum is increased. In addition, some functions of the gut microbiota seem to be disrupted in case of osteoarthritis, thus suggesting a reduced ability to benefit from food.
When could the gut microbiota help with diagnosis, and even treatment?
Since the gut microbiota of patients with osteoarthritis is different from that of controls–thus suggesting that the gut microbiota could be a risk factor–the research team tried to develop a predictive tool for the disease based on the presence of 9 bacteria in the patients’ stools. Their predictive model was proven reliable in the elderly women from the study but has not yet been verified in other patient groups. The presence of these bacteria could well prove to be useful in establishing a diagnosis. These microorganisms could also open up new treatment options for osteoarthritis based on prebiotics or probiotics. Ultimately this could lead to better pain relief and improved quality of life for osteoarthritis patients.