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Link Found Between Viral Pathogens and Arthritis

Int J Rheumatol; 2018 Oct 1; Shmagel, et al

Herpes simplex virus (HSV-2) seropositivity and oral human papillomavirus (HPV) DNA positivity were associated with self-reported arthritis and not with comparator outcomes, after adjustment for multiple potential confounders, according to a recent study. Researchers used data from 2 consecutive cycles of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from 2009 until 2012 (adults ages 20-69 n= 9,483). Participants were classified as having arthritis by self-report. They compared HSV-1 and HSV-2 seropositivity as well as oral and vaginal HPV DNA positivity between participants with self-reported arthritis vs those without, adjusting for age, gender, race, income, education, body mass index (BMI), and the use of immunosuppressive medications. They used 3 comparator outcomes—gout, kidney stones, and hypertension—to evaluate whether the associations were specific or not to arthritis. They found:

  • Arthritis was associated with older age, female gender, non-Hispanic white and non-Hispanic black race, higher BMI, and lower socioeconomic status.
  • HSV-2 seropositivity, but not HSV-1 seropositivity, was independently associated with arthritis after adjustment for age, gender, race, income, education, BMI, and the use of immunosuppressive medications.
  • Oral HPV DNA positivity was also independently associated with arthritis.


Shmagel A, Skemp-Dymond G, Langsetmo L, Schousboe JT, Ensrud K, Foley R. Population-wide associations between common viral pathogens and self-reported arthritis: NHANES 2009-2012. Int J Rheumatol. 2018:7684942. doi:10.1155/2018/7684942.