Scientists have discovered for the first time that a complex relationship between three microscopic bugs could play an important role in Crohn’s disease.
For Crohn’s disease, we know the immune system is responsible for inflammation, we know a person’s genes may affect the likelihood of developing the illness and we know environmental factors (e.g. diet, smoking, stress) may trigger or worsen its symptoms. But despite all our knowledge and advances in research, we still do not know the exact cause of Crohn’s disease.
Not surprisingly, the community profile of bacteria and fungi were more similar between family members, regardless of whether they had Crohn’s (groups 1 and 2), than with unrelated people without Crohn’s (group 3).
Three potential suspects identified
To reduce complicating factors (i.e. genetic and environmental) that could bias results, authors focused on analysing the gut bacterial and fungal communities in the related groups 1 and 2.
There was an increase in the numbers of potentially disease-causing bacteria and a decrease in the numbers of beneficial bacteria in people with Crohn’s.
Of particular interest were two potentially disease-causing bacteria (Escherichia coli and Serratia marcescens) and one fungus (Candida tropicalis), which were all significantly higher in abundance in people with Crohn’s.
Here’s the interesting part – computer analyses identified that the fungus C. tropicalis was positively correlated with 13 different bacteria, including the other two suspects, E. coli and S. marcescens.
This means, in people with Crohn’s, an abundance of C. tropicalis equals an abundance of those different bacterial species – they essentially live and thrive in harmony.
How does this relate to the cause of Crohn’s disease?
Crohn’s disease is an ongoing inflammatory condition that mainly affects the gut, but could occur anywhere in the passage starting from your mouth through to your anus.
Based on this study’s results, authors proposed that the many interactions among different species of (disease-causing) bacteria and fungi of the gut impact the immune systems of people with Crohn’s disease.
The diverse by-products released by these complex gut biofilms may relate to the ongoing inflammation of the gut, exacerbating (or resulting in) Crohn’s disease.
The results of this study highlight that the gut microbiomes of people with Crohn’s are very different from healthy individuals and this could provide insight into developing new medications, probiotics or diagnostic assays for people with Crohn’s disease. Please check back regularly at our Own Your IBD blog for other interesting and relevant articles.1Hoarau G et al. MBio 2016 Sep 20;7(5). pii: e01250-16.
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