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Could one lowly bacterium, Prevotella copri, train the immune system to produce the type of human immune cell (Th17) responsible for inflammation and bone damage in arthritis?

According to a new study, also reported on in Wired, the answer could be yes. Based on some provocative early studies in mice, a team lead by Dan Littman, an Immunologist at New York University, found that the gut microbe Prevotella copri was present in the intestines of 75 percent of the patients they tested that suffered with untreated rheumatoid arthritis.  The team also found that feeding mice P copri bacteria resulted in an increase in inflammation.

I found these results interesting in light of other recent studies suggesting that carbohydrate-based diets are associated with increases in Prevotellaenterotypes, while protein and satuated fat-based diets are associated with increases in Bacteroides enterotypes 

[1].

More studies are needed for sure (only 114 residents of New York were tested and some were healthy while others had a different type of arthritis) and having more Prevotella species in general doesn’t ensure that Prevotella copri will be present, but the idea that we need to consume lots of carbohydrates for a “healthy microbiome” freeing us of inflammatory / autoimmune diseases is one that also needs to be closely examined.

Here is a follow-up article on this topic that also pulls in Bacteroides fragilis as one of the good bacteria that may help prevent arthritis!


[1] Wu GD, Chen J, Hoffmann C, Bittinger K, Chen YY, Keilbaugh SA, Bewtra M, Knights D, Walters WA, Knight R, Sinha R, Gilroy E, Gupta K, Baldassano R, Nessel L, Li H, Bushman FD, Lewis JD. Linking long-term dietary patterns with gut microbial enterotypes. Science. 2011 Oct 7;334(6052):105-8.