In what are described as groundbreaking findings, a research team led by members from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine has identified new factors associated with the development of Crohn’s disease. The discoveries could enable the development of new treatments and possible cures for this debilitating inflammatory bowel disease, according to the study authors. Specifically, the team identified a fungus and a new bacterium as contributing to the condition, adding to the previous bacteria, and genetic and dietary factors already associated with Crohn’s. Senior author Mahmoud Ghannoum, PhD, professor and director of the Center for Medical Mycology at Case Western Reserve and University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, said, “Essentially, patients with Crohn’s 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. Our study adds significant new information to understanding why some people develop Crohn’s disease.”
Both bacteria and fungi are microorganisms that are present throughout the body. In the study of patients with Crohn’s disease and their Crohn’s-free relatives in France and Belgium, the researchers found 2 bacteria (Escherichia coli and Serratia marcescens) and one fungus (Candida tropicalis) the presence of which were significantly higher in the afflicted family members. The team found that the interaction of fungus and bacteria produced a biofilm that can induce inflammation resulting in the symptoms of Crohn’s. “Among hundreds of bacterial and fungal species inhabiting the intestines, it is telling that the three we identified were so highly correlated in Crohn’s patients,” Dr. Ghannoum stated. The findings appear this month in the journal mBio.
Read a news story about the discovery here.The journal abstract may be read here