Curcuma longa (turmeric) rhizomes contains curcumin, an active compound which possesses anti-inflammatory effects. Collagen-induced arthritis (CIA) is an accepted experimental animal model of rheumatoid arthritis. The present study aimed to observe the histological changes in the joints of experimental arthritic rats treated with curcumin. Twenty four male Sprague-Dawley (approximately 7 weeks-old) rats were randomly divided into four groups. Three groups were immunized with 150 µg collagen. All rats with established CIA, with arthritis scores exceeding 1, were orally treated with betamethasone (0.5 mg/ml/kg body weight), curcumin (110 mg/ml/kg body weight) or olive oil (1.0 ml/kg body weight) daily, for two weeks. One remaining group was kept as normal control. Treatment with 110 mg/ml/kg curcumin showed significant mean differences in the average white blood cell (WBC) count (p<0.05), cell infiltration, bone and cartilage erosion scores (p<0.05) compared to the olive oil treated group. Pannus formation scores showed that curcumin supplementation successfully suppressed the pannus formation process that occurred in the articular cartilage of the CIA joints. The mean difference for histological scores for the curcumin group was insignificant compared to the betamethasone treated group. It is concluded that supplementation of curcumin has protective effect on the histopathological and degenerative changes in the joints of CIA rats which was at par with betamethasone.
Keywords: arthritis; collagen; curcumin; experimental; histopathology; inflammation.