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Infections in Infancy Linked to Arthritis

Arthritis Linked to Infections in Infancy

Babies who suffer from serious infections during their first twelve months of life may be at an increased risk of developing arthritis.  There are two types of arthritis that are linked with infancy infection: Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis.  Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis currently affects 300,000 children in the U.S. alone.  Rheumatoid Arthritis usually has an onset later in their adulthood.  Rheumatoid Arthritis presently affects the lives of 1.3 million Americans.  Both forms of arthritis are chronic conditions, affecting the health of the joints. 

Researchers from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden studied 3,500 individuals who were born between 1973 and 2002.  They evaluated records of the Swedish Medical Birth Register, the Swedish Inpatient Register, and the Early Arthritis Register.  The documents and files provided information pertaining to the prenatal condition of the baby, the birthing and delivery conditions, and the infants’ health conditions after birth.  The study revealed that the babies who were hospitalized for an infection in their first twelve months of life, more than doubled their chances of developing Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis at some point during the course of their life.  Dr. Cecilia Carlens, the lead investigator in the case study, suggests that the infection actually alters the way the immune system develops.  This is contrary to the understanding that we get an illness as a result of a low immune system.  In this case, the immune system is damaged from a very early age, making the child susceptible to illness and disease throughout their life.  Other conditions showed signs of adding additional risks to the onset of arthritis, including a low birth weight of the baby and a prolonged gestational period.  A pregnancy lasting more than 42 weeks increased the risk for Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis.