The oral #microbiome in early #rheumatoid arthritis patients and individuals at risk differs from healthy controls

It has been suggested that rheumatoid arthritis (RA) may originate at the oral mucosa. Our aim was to assess the oral microbiome and the periodontal condition in patients with early rheumatoid arthritis (ERA) and individuals at risk of RA.

Three groups were recruited (50 participants each): (1) ERA patients (2010 ACR/EULAR criteria), (2) at‐risk individuals (arthralgia and autoantibodies), and (3) healthy controls. A periodontal examination resulted in scores for bleeding on probing (BOP), pocket probing depth (PPD), and periodontal inflamed surface area (PISA). The microbial composition of subgingival dental plaque, saliva, and tongue coating was assessed using 16S rDNA amplicon sequencing, and compared between groups with permutational multivariate analyses of variance (PERMANOVA).

There was no difference between the groups on the periodontal variables (BOP p=0.70; PPD p=0.30; PISA p=0.56). PERMANOVA showed a difference between the groups in the microbial composition of saliva (F=2.08, p<0.001) and tongue coating (F=2.04, p=0.008), but not plaque (p=0.51). Post‐hoc tests showed no difference between the ERA group and at‐risk group (saliva F=1.12, p=0.28; tongue coating F=0.834, p=0.59). Discriminative zero‐radius operational taxonomic units (zOTUs) were identified: in ERA patients and at‐risk individuals, Prevotella in saliva and Veillonella in saliva and tongue coating were at higher relative abundance compared to healthy controls.

The results show similarities in the oral microbiome between ERA patients and at‐risk individuals, both presenting with increased relative abundance of potentially pro‐inflammatory species compared to healthy controls, suggesting a possible association between the oral microbiome and RA onset.