In subsequent experiments in cell culture, gold compounds were shown to render the immune system antigen presenting cells inactive, further strengthening this connection. These findings now give researches a mechanism of gold drug action that can be tested and explored directly in diseased tissues.
In 1890, a German doctor named Robert Koch found that gold effectively killed the bacteria that caused tuberculosis. In the 1930s, based on a widely held but probably erroneous connection at the time between tuberculosis and rheumatoid arthritis, a French doctor, Jacques Forestier, developed the use of gold drugs for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Gold drugs have been used since then as an effective treatment for this and other autoimmune diseases such as Lupus, but treatment can take months for action and sometimes presents severe side effects which have diminished their use in recent years.
With this new understanding of how these metals function, it may now be possible to develop a new generation of gold-based drugs for treating rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases that are more effective with fewer side effects.