Rheumatoid arthritis treatment: Can antibiotics help?

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Rheumatoid arthritis treatment: Can antibiotics reduce symptoms?

Question

What is Mayo Clinic's opinion on the use of antibiotics in rheumatoid arthritis treatment?

Matthew
Canada

Answer

Researchers continue to explore the possibility that rheumatoid arthritis may be triggered by some form of infection. If true, it may be possible to prevent or stop the progression of the disease by taking an antibiotic. However, studies of the usefulness of antibiotic therapy for rheumatoid arthritis have produced mixed results. Here are some conclusions:

  • Minocycline. Research indicates that minocycline may be effective in treating mild rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Doxycycline. One small study suggests that methotrexate combined with doxycycline may be more effective in treating rheumatoid arthritis than is methotrexate alone.
  • Tetracycline and clindamycin. One small study reports that tetracycline combined with intravenous clindamycin may provide modest benefit to people with rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Dapsone. This antibiotic may be effective in treating rheumatoid arthritis; however, its adverse effects, such as hemolytic anemia, outweigh any potential benefits of the drug.
  • Rifampin. This medication is not effective in treating rheumatoid arthritis.

Antibiotics have many potential side effects, some serious. Also, the effects of long-term antibiotic use are unknown. More research is needed to determine what, if any, role antibiotics play in rheumatoid arthritis treatment.

Last Updated: 05/23/2006
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