New hope for Crohn’s sufferers in intestinal research

September 23, 2016 Providence Health Team

Two types of gut bacteria and a type of intestinal fungus may work in tandem to cause Crohn’s disease, a painful bowel inflammation, new research suggests. The findings may point the way to new treatments – or even cures – for the disease, researchers said.

“Our study adds significant new information to understanding why some people develop Crohn’s disease,” said Mahmoud A. Ghannoum, lead author of the study and a professor at Case Western Reserve and University Hospital’s Cleveland Medical Center. “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.”

Researchers have long known that gut bacteria play a role in Crohn’s, but the new study, which examined fecal samples from Crohn’s sufferers in northern Belgium, their first-degree relatives and others who don’t have the disease, added a twist. For the first time, investigators said, they saw how the fungus and two types of bacteria seemed closely linked in people who suffer from Crohn’s.

A press release from Case Western said it was the first time any fungus had been linked to Crohn’s in humans.

“We found strong similarities in what may be called the ‘gut profiles’ of the Crohn’s-affected families, which were strikingly different from the Crohn’s-free families,” Ghannoum said.

A profile of Crohn’s

Crohn’s is an inflammation that can occur anywhere in the digestive tract, but often where the colon meets the small intestine, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Symptoms often include:

  • Persistent diarrhea
  • Cramping abdominal pain
  • Fever
  • Rectal bleeding in some cases

Other symptoms may also occur, including:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Bloating
  • Night sweats
  • A disrupted menstrual cycle

The CDC says the disease can also affect joints, skin, eyes and liver.

Treatment options include medication, careful attention to diet and nutrition, and for most sufferers, eventually surgery. Advocates say the right treatment or combination of treatments can allow Crohn’s sufferers to enjoy a high-quality of life.

For more reading

The research, “Bacteriome and Mycobiome Interactions Underscore Microbial Dysbiosis in Familial Crohn’s Disease,” was published in the journal mBio, a publication of the American Society for Microbiology.

The Case Western Reserve University press release describing the research is here.

The CDC’s page on Inflammatory Bowel Disease addresses the symptoms, treatments and research into Crohn’s disease and another bowel disease, ulcerative colitis.

You might wish to read the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America’s “Living with Crohn’s & Colitis” page.

Talk with your health care provider if you suffer such Crohn’s symptoms as stomach pain, diarrhea and fatigue. To find a Providence provider near you, consult our online directory.

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