Links between three chronic and age-related diseases, osteoarthritis, periodontitis, and osteoporosis, in a wild mammal (moose) population

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College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science


OBJECTIVE: Osteoarthritis, periodontitis and osteoporosis are chronic, age-related diseases which adversely impact millions of people worldwide. Because these diseases pose a major global public health challenge, there is an urgent need to better understand how these diseases are interrelated. Our objective was to document the age and sex-specific prevalence of each disease and assess interrelationships among the three diseases in a wild mammal (moose, Alces alces) population. METHODS: We examined the bones of moose dying from natural causes and recorded the severity of osteoarthritis (typically observed on the hip and lowest vertebrae), osteoporosis (osteoporotic lesions observed on the skull) and periodontitis (observed on maxilla and mandibles). RESULTS: Periodontitis was associated with a greater prevalence of both severe osteoarthritis and osteoporotic lesions in moose. We found no evidence to suggest that moose with osteoporotic lesions were more or less likely to exhibit signs of osteoarthritis or severe osteoarthritis. The prevalence of osteoarthritis, periodontitis and osteoporotic lesions was greater among males than for females. CONCLUSIONS: Our results were consistent with the hypothesis that bacterial pathogens causing periodontitis are a risk factor for osteoarthritis and osteoporosis. They are also consistent with the hypothesis that the inverse association between osteoarthritis and osteoporosis sometimes observed in humans may be influenced by shared risk factors, such as obesity, smoking or alcohol consumption, which are absent in moose. Together these results provide insights about three diseases which are expected to become more prevalent in the future and that cause substantial socio-economic burdens.

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Osteoarthritis and cartilage