First study shows inhaled bacteria in your shower could trigger Crohn's disease

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Bacteria in shower a Crohn's trigger say researchers

A bacteria that infects cows and inhaled in domestic showers could trigger Crohn's disease. University of Lancaster scientists have found for the first time that inhaling the Map bacteria may contribute to clusters of Crohn's disease.


Researchers have been exploring the link between a bacteria found in water and Crohn's disease. In a new finding UK scientists say mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis or Map, a bacteria that infects livestock,has been found in household showers that could explain clusters of Crohn's disease.

Inhaled bacteria a trigger for Crohn's disease

This is the first time researchers have found the bacteria in showers that comes from runoff from farms with infected animals.

In cows, Map causes Johne's disease. Symptoms include diarrhea and wasting.

“It comes through the water system and with the other bacteria forms a biofilm in the shower tube and then this grows and gets washed off and comes through in the shower water," Professor Roger Pickup, from Lancaster University’s Faculty of Health and Medicine, said.

Crohn's disease has been found in clusters in the Cardiff region of the UK, which could be explained in part by the Map bacteria.


Nearly everyone with Crohn's disease has been found to be infected with Map when testing is done correctly the authors note. Testing is done by identifying bacterial DNA or RNA or by cultures.

As early as 2003 research suggested there could be a possible cure for Crohn's disease using macrolide antibiotics and more studies were proposed. Common examples of macrolide antibiotics include Erythromycin and Azithromycin.

The bacteria thought to trigger Crohn's disease was also found in spray coming off the river Taff on a regular basis.

Professor Pickup suggests running the shower for a short period before getting in to make sure the bacteria is washed from pipes and the biofilm removed from tubs. The same is recommended to prevent Legionnaires' disease Pickup adds.

The study

The researchers looked at 30 water samples from showers in various regions of the UK. Three of the samples contained Map. The study is published in the journal Pathogens and is the first to show the Map bacteria when inhaled from the shower or river could trigger Crohn's disease. There is also a clinical trial underway to determine if anti-Map therapy could cure Crohn's disease.

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