Trial for potential rheumatoid arthritis treatment begins

University of the Sunshine Coast

A potential new treatment for rheumatoid arthritis that focuses on the gut microbiome is set to be trialled on the Sunshine Coast, with researchers now seeking study participants.

The University of the Sunshine Coast Clinical Trials and Servatus Biopharmaceuticals Ltd are collaborating to trial a Live Biotherapeutic Product, which is a field of medical therapy that is advancing globally.

Principal Investigator Dr Peter de Wet said rheumatoid arthritis was an autoimmune disease that occurred when the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s tissues, affecting the joints’ lining and causing joint pain and stiffness.

“Rheumatoid arthritis can be a debilitating condition that can impact many aspects of daily living,” Dr de Wet said.

“We are interested to learn about the role of the gut microbiome in treating symptoms of this condition.

“And while there are various strategies to improve joint mobility and muscle strength and reduce inflammation, some treatments are ineffective or have unwanted side effects, highlighting the need for new medicines to address the condition.”

He said the trial, to be held at UniSC’s newest clinic in Birtinya on the Sunshine Coast, represented a significant step forward in the pursuit of a new treatment.

Dr Samantha Coulson PhD, Head of Clinical Research at Servatus, said the Live Biotherapeutic Product was an exciting and promising field of medical therapies that was advancing quickly on a global scale.

Servatus has isolated select microbial species and pre-clinical investigations suggest the potential medication may be effective in treating autoimmune and inflammatory conditions.

“The gut microbiome plays such a vital role in many diseased states including rheumatoid arthritis, as the gut bacteria and immune system have a bidirectional influence on each other,” Dr Coulson said.

“By using well-defined bacterial strains, we hope to regulate the hyperactive immune response seen in rheumatoid arthritis with significantly less side effects as with many of the current drugs in the market.

The team sought participants aged between 18 and 80 years of age, with confirmed rheumatoid arthritis, who are experiencing daily joint pain and stiffness.

Participants will need to commit to up to six visits at the Birtinya clinic on the Sunshine Coast over approximately four months and they will be reimbursed for their time on the trial.

Those interested in volunteering can find more information at

UniSC Clinical Trials is a world-class clinical trials network, bringing advanced treatment and breakthrough therapies to our regions.

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