Infections in Infants May Lead to Increased Rheumatoid Arthritis Risk
Posted Jan 17 2011 5:45pm
Swedish researchers have been investigating the link between serious infections during the first year of life and the risk of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). There have been previous studies that have indicated that infections can cause autoimmune diseases in adulthood. The current study seems to show that an infection in infants interferes with the normal maturation of the immune system.
To perform their analysis, the research team from the Karolinska Institute and Stockholm accessed information from national registers to conduct a case controlled study or people born between 1973 and 2002.
The research involved 333 cases of RA that were diagnosed in patients that were between the ages of 16 and 29 years and 3,334 cases of juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA). They matched each of these cases with 4 control subjects based on gender and age.
The researchers found that people who had a serious infection in their first year had twice the risk of developing JIA. They also found that babies that were premature, small or had a low birth weight demonstrated a reduced risk for RA, although they don’t know why.
In addition, they found that having a high birth weight or having more than 3 older siblings does not have a significant impact of risk of developing RA.
Said lead author Dr. Cecilia Carlens concludes, “Nobody had thought of this relationship with early-in-life infections and how they can affect the immune system.
“Our results indicate that infections during the first year of life and possibly also factors related to size at and timing of birth may be of etiological importance in the pathogenesis of RA and JIA.”
The results of the study were published in the Tuesday edition of the online journal Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.