A landmark research

Shazia Beg of Kashmir is a leading member of US based research team in rheumatoid arthritis

University of Central Florida (UCF) team in United States has conducted a landmark research in rheumatoid arthritis (RA). In the university, college of medicine team comprising of Dr. Saleh Naser, Dr. Robert Sharp and Dr. Shazia Beg have broken new ground in relating RA to a cause, hitherto unknown. Dr. Shazia Beg hails from Sarnal in Anantnag; a progeny of well-known Beg family. Her antecedents apart, we may look at the work, her research in UCF medical combine. But, first a look at the disease, we are relating to.

Rheumatoid Arthritis is a disease affecting joints, muscles, bones and organs. It is marked by pain, swelling and stiffness of the joints. Patients suffer from deformities mostly in the hands and feet. RA is generally thought to be an auto-immune disorder. An autoimmune disease is a condition in which the immune system attacks the body. Immunity is meant to keep the body in a combative state against disorders. However, an excessive immune reaction is unwarranted. It may itself become a cause of disorder such as RA. About 1.3 million adults in the US suffer from the disease. It can occur at any age but the most common onset is between 40 and 60 years old and is three times more prevalent in women. SKIMS Soura 2013 study relates an increasing prevalence of RA in Kashmir over last two decades.

The general impression in medical science vis-à-vis RA may be in for a change, if the UCF research goes ahead and establishes the new facts unambiguously. The researchers have found a strain of bacteria which could act as a trigger for developing RA in people who are genetically at risk. The noted bacterial strain is commonly found in milk and beef. The strain is a subspecies of mycobacterium avium and is known as para-tuberculosis. Called MAP, the bacteria is found in half the cows of United States. The bacteria can be spread to humans through the consumption of infected milk, beef and produce fertilized by cow manure. UCF combine of three medical researchers forms the first such team that has established a connection between RA and MAP. The study was recently published in a journal– Cellular and Infection Microbiology and subsequently reported worldwide. It is funded by Florida legislature—a grant of $500,000.

UCF medical team is just the combine needed to buttress the research undertaken. It is the combine of UCF infectious disease specialist–Dr. Saleh Naser, a rheumatologist at UCF’s physician practice–Dr. Shazia Bég and a biomedical sciences doctoral candidate at the medical school—Robert Sharp. The combine carries all the needed specialities on board. The collaboration between the three has provided the relevant inferences reached so far in the ongoing research. The research was based on a definite background. The bacterial strain—MAP had already been implicated in a disease related to RA. The disease known as Crohn’s disease has the same genetic disposition as RA. Both these disorders are treated with immunosuppressive drugs. As already noted RA involves an excessive immune reaction. Immunosuppressive drugs are drugs which suppress the immune reaction. One of the three UCF researchers—Dr. Naser had discovered a connection between MAP and Crohn’s disease. In United Stated the ‘Federal Drug Administration (FDA)’ has approved clinical trial to treat Crohn’s patients with antibiotics in first ever phase III-FDA approved clinical trial, while as like RA it is treated with immunosuppressive drugs. The similarities led the team to investigate whether MAP could also be linked to RA, and the research to establish the link took-off.

Moving from a treatment regimen of immunosuppression to treatment with antibiotics in related disorders like RA and Crohn’s disease would definitely need further research. The very fact however of clinical trials being allowed by FDA to treat Crohn’s patients with antibiotics has put the research on the right path. Dr. Shazia Beg has an interesting role in the research for which she recruited 100 of her patients who volunteered serum samples for testing.  Seventy-eight percent of the patients with rheumatoid arthritis were found to have a mutation in the PTPN2/22 gene. It is relevant to note that the same genetic mutation was found in Crohn’s patients, and 40 percent of that number tested positive for MAP. It has led Dr. Naser to comment, “We believe that individuals born with this genetic mutation and who are later exposed to MAP through consuming contaminated milk or meat from infected cattle are at a higher risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.” Whether the two diseases– Crohn’s and RA can occur simultaneously in the same patient is also a matter of investigations. Case studies have reported that some patients of RA suffer from Crohn’s disease and vice versa, the researchers say a national study is needed to investigate the incidence of the two diseases in the same patients.

“We don’t know the cause of rheumatoid arthritis, so we’re excited that we have found this association,” Dr. Bég has said. “But there is still a long way to go.  We need to find out why MAP is more predominant in these patients – whether it’s present because they have RA, or whether it caused RA in these patients. If we find that out, then we can target treatment toward the MAP bacteria.” Dr. Shazia Beg’s remarkable research work sets as apart as a medical researcher with impeccable credentials. She would be adding to her laurels if the research work in which she has a pivotal role reaches its logical conclusion. She might well be on the path to it, given the wide interest in the medical circles across the globe vis-à-vis the resultant of the work done so far.

Courtesy Greater Kashmir

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

Leave a reply

Kashmir Innovators Scientists Researchers and Poets Gallery