To summarize the recent literature on the association of infection with early arthritis, and to discuss the possible role of such infections with respect to the development of chronic rheumatic complications.
Viral infections are frequently associated with arthritis. Alphaviruses belong to mosquito-borne viruses, one form of which (Sindbis virus) can in Scandinavia and Karelia cause acute arthritis with typical rash. The role of this infection leading to chronic erosive arthritis needs further prospective studies. Patients infected with HIV can have various forms of arthritis. The role of HIV virus as an arthritogenic agent is still debated. On the basis of population studies, Campylobacter infections seem to be increasing as causative infections in reactive arthritis. There is no role for prolonged antibiotic therapy to shorten the duration of acute reactive arthritis, but the possibility that such a treatment might reduce the development of chronic sequelae needs to be examined in a larger study. The role of preceding infection initiating the process of rheumatoid arthritis is still an option, the association being observed in about 20% of patients studied in the early phase of arthritis.
Viral and microbial infections play a role in acute arthritis. The role of these infections in the development of chronic arthritis needs further prospective controlled studies.