Fleas, ticks and other insects that come out in droves when the weather gets warm may present more of a danger than red, itchy bites. A study from researchers at North Carolina State University has found a link between the bacterium Bartonella – often carried by fleas and ticks – and the onset of rheumatoid arthritis later in life.
Authors of the study examined nearly 300 individuals, 62 percent of whom were found to have Bartonella antibodies in their blood, which is an indicator that they had been exposed to the bacterium at some point.
The researchers said that while they can't definitively conclude that the pathogen causes rheumatic conditions, there was a significant association between the two. The findings may have implications for people with arthritis, potentially providing better treatments for deformities like bunions or hammer toe.
"If the link between Bartonella and rheumatoid illnesses is valid, it may also open up more directed treatment options for patients with rheumatoid illnesses," said lead researcher Ed Breitschwerdt.