New study may have discovered cause of Crohn’s disease

CLEVELAND (WCMH) — A new study from researchers at Case Western Reserve and University Hospitals Cleveland may have discovered the cause of Crohn’s disease.

Crohn’s disease is a chronic condition that causes diarrhea, abdominal pain, weight loss and fatigue. Almost 570,000 people in the United States suffer from the condition, and doctors have never been able to say why until now.

The study identified a specific fungus and two bacteria that may play a role in this chronic disease.

“We already know that bacteria, in addition to genetic and dietary factors, play a major role in causing Crohn’s disease,” said a release from Mahmoud A. Ghannoum, the study’s senior and corresponding author. “Essentially, patients with Crohn’s disease have abnormal immune responses to these bacteria, which inhabit the intestines of all people. While most researchers focus their investigations on these bacteria, few have examined the role of fungi, which are also present in everyone’s intestines.”

Ghannoum’s team found that the two bacteria, Escherichia coli and Serratia marcescens, work with the fungus, Candida tropicalis, to produce a biofilm that adheres to a portion of the intestines, which can prompt inflammation that causes the symptoms of Crohn’s disease.  Ghannoum said that it is very telling that these three were so highly correlated with Crohn’s disease out of the hundreds of bacterial and fungal species people have in their intestines.

Ghannoum also said that this bacterial and fungal makeup is not the only factor behind Crohn’s, citing diet and environment as additional factors.

“Further research is needed to be even more specific in identifying precipitators and contributors of Crohn’s,” Ghannoum said. However, he is optimistic about the new treatment options for people with the disease.

“Our study adds significant new information to understanding why some people develop Crohn’s disease,” he said in the release. “Equally important, it can result in a new generation of treatments, including medications and probiotics, which hold the potential for making qualitative and quantitative differences in the lives of people suffering from Crohn’s.”

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