The disease systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) -- marked by the attack on joints, skin, and kidneys by the body's immune system – has been linked, in a new study, to an abnormal mix of bacteria in the gut. This is according to a new study led by scientists at NYU Langone Health/NYU School of Medicine. While bacterial imbalances have been tied to many immune-related diseases, including inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis, and some cancers, the authors of the current study say their experiments are the first detailed evidence of a link between bacterial imbalances in the gut and potentially life-threatening forms of SLE. The new study, published online on February 19, 2019 in the Annals of Rheumatic Diseases, showed that 61 women diagnosed with SLE had roughly five times more gut bacteria known as Ruminococcus gnavus, than 17 women of similar ages and racial backgrounds who did not have the disease and were healthy. Lupus is more common in women than in men. Moreover, study results showed that disease "flares," which can range from instances of skin rash and joint pain to severe kidney dysfunction requiring dialysis, closely tracked to major increases in R. gnavus bacterial growth in the gut, alongside the presence in blood samples of immune proteins called antibodies, specifically shaped to attach to the bacteria. Study participants with kidney flares had especially high levels of antibodies to R. gnavus. The open-access article is titled “Lupus Nephritis Is Linked to Disease-Activity Associated Expansions and Immunity to a Gut Commensal.” The authors say the specific causes of lupus, which affects as many as 1.5 million Americans, are unknown, although many suspect that genetic factors are partly responsible.
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