Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that principally attacks joints. It causes a lot of trouble, attacking about half a percent of the population in the US.
It causes characteristic changes in the bones. Key point: it is vanishingly rare in Old World skeletons before the 17th century. Those changes, however, been seen in some pre-Columbian Amerindian skeletons [work by Bruce Rothschild].
The obvious explanation is that RA is caused by some pathogen that originated in the Americas and later spread to the rest of the world. Like the French disease.
However, someone [Jim Mobley, at Pfizer] ] came up with the idea that selection for protection against tuberculosis leads (a few generations later) to overactive immune systems that cause rheumatoid arthritis. A number of people, including Bruce Rothschild [who is a great guy] , seem to have bought into this idea.
There’s no way that idea can be right. Mobley talks about 200 year lags between TB epidemics and high frequencies of RA: that’s not nearly long enough. Selection doesn’t work that fast. There are other issues hat make this notion implausible, but that’s enough.
Genetics does of course influence susceptibility to RA. So what? Is that a useful line of inquiry? Shit no: you want to find key causes, factors in the absence of which disease never occurs. Then you can prevent the disease or even cure the sucker, rather than medicating the poor guy till his money runs out.
A pathogen is overwhelmingly likely to be the cause. If medicine researchers ate their Wheaties, they’d be hearing things:
Till a voice, as bad as Conscience, rang interminable changes On one everlasting Whisper day and night repeated -- so: "Something hidden. Go and find it. Go and look behind the Ranges -- "Something lost behind the Ranges. Lost and waiting for you. Go!"
I did see the recent note about gut bacteria maybe being the cause. But I’ve been saying this for a long time. I mentioned this in our book, and on the blog.
It’s time for someone to run and find out.