Perturbations of the gut microbiome in anti-CCP positive individuals at risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.
Individuals with newly diagnosed RA have a distinct microbiome when compared with healthy controls. However, little is known as to when these microbiome perturbations begin. Using a prospective at-risk cohort of individuals positive for anti-citrullinated protein (anti-CCP) antibody with new onset musculoskeletal symptoms, but without clinical arthritis, we investigated for the presence of a gut dysbiosis before the onset of RA.The gut microbiota of 25 anti-CCP positive individuals without clinical synovitis were sequenced targeting the V4 region of the 16S rRNA gene. Using a publicly available database, a control population of 44 individuals, approximately matched in age, gender, diet and ethnicity was selected for comparison, using the same sequencing methodology. Median interval between sample collection and progression to RA was 188 days. Taxonomic analysis was performed using QIIME and MEGAN, and statistical analysis using R software.There were significant differences (P =0.01) at family level in gut microbiomes of anti-CCP positive individuals vs controls. The anti-CCP positive population had an overabundance of Lachnospiraceae, Helicobacteraceae, Ruminococcaceae, Erysipelotrichaceae and Bifidobacteriaceae, among others. Five individuals progressed to RA between sample collection and analysis. Clustering of the progressor population was observed on a phylogenetic network created using a probabilistic similarity index (Goodall’s index).Anti-CCP positive at-risk individuals without clinical synovitis appear to have a distinct gut microbiome compared with healthy controls. Phylogenetic clustering was observed in individuals who progressed to RA, suggesting that distinct taxa are associated with the development of RA many months before its onset.