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The good, the bad and the ugly: Bugs in the gut

17 November 2014

In mammals trillions of bacteria colonize the skin and mucosal surfaces. The largest community is found in the gut, collectively known as the gut-microbiota. So far variations in microbiota have been linked predominately to the development of gut pathology. However, a new study published in Nature Medicine by Professor Claudia Mauri's group (UCL Division of Medicine) in collaboration with microbiologists from the Institute of Child Health directly links the gut-microbiota to arthritis development and a population of B cells known as regulatory B cells (Bregs), cells originally identified by Professor Mauri’s group as immunosuppressive.

The study, funded by arthritis research UK (ARUK), identifies that treatment with broad-spectrum antibiotics, ablating the microbiota, reduces both arthritis severity and, paradoxically, the number of Bregs. Furthermore, the group demonstrates that Bregs expand in number in response to “danger signals” induced in response to the cooperation between gut-microbiota and arthritic stimuli, to limit severe joint swelling and damage, which in their absence would otherwise develop.

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