Microbiome and autoimmune diseases: cause and effect relationship

Curr Opin Rheumatol. 2019 Sep;31(5):471-474. doi: 10.1097/BOR.0000000000000628.


Purpose of review: The human body is the host of trillions of different prokaryotic microorganisms that colonize the skin and the mucosae. The interaction between human cells and these organisms is mediated by the immune system, sustaining a very complex and fragile balance. The immune cells need to prevent uncontrolled growth of pathogenic microbes and promote tolerance toward the existence of the beneficial ones. Growing evidence associates the disruption of this symbiotic relationship with the development of autoimmune diseases.

Recent findings: Human studies led to the identification of gut dysbiosis patterns in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and multiple sclerosis. Interestingly, the inoculation of pathogenic bacteria in animal models was associated with the development of these autoimmune diseases.

Summary: A better understanding of the microbiota-human interaction will enable the development of novel treatment choices. Currently, new molecules using helminth compounds are under investigation and have already revealed promising results.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / immunology*
  • Autoimmune Diseases / immunology*
  • Bacteria / immunology*
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immune Tolerance*