Reactive arthritis was initially described as a sterile synovitis, without microbial components present in the joint tissue. It has, however, become evident that bacterial degradation products, and even bacterial DNA, are present in the synovium of patients with this disease. Since intestinal pathogens are important causes of reactive arthritis, and since cellular homing allows transport of bacterial products from the gut to synovium, we have approached the etiology of rheumatoid arthritis from this point of view. A series of observations has led to a hypothesis that patients with rheumatoid arthritis might favour, for genetic reasons, intestinal bacteria which are capable of inducing arthritis. In the long-run, with continuous seeding of bacterial products from the gut, the synovial inflammation is followed by erosion, exposition of cartilage antigens, and autoimmunity.
Copyright 2001 Academic Press.