How mesalamine works to treat ulcerative colitis newly discovered

Jan 25 2017 - 9:16am
Mesalamine and ulcerative colitis: How the medication works uncovered by researchers

Mesalmine is commonly prescribed for treating ulcerative colitis, but until now researchers were unsure how the medication worked to treat the inflammatory bowel disease.

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The prescription has been used for approximately 70 years and for some is a mainstay treatment for the disease. What has been known is that mesalamine quells inflammation in the colon. Ulcerative colits causes inflammation.

Symptoms for sufferers can be mild to severe and include:

  • Pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Intestinal bleeding from sores in the mucosa of the gut
  • Frequent urge to defecate
  • Symptoms that come and go unpredictably
  • Bloating and stomach soreness>

See: Crohn's and colitis bloating: When to see your doctor

Mesalamine helps bacteria in the gut

A recent focus from researchers has been understanding what causes Crohn's disease and colitis to enhance treatment options.

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Studies have pinpointed alterations in gut bacteria that contribute to inflammation but it hasn't been clear exactly how the autoimmune disease develops.

University of Michigan researchers now know mesalamine affects mcroorganisms in the gut, leading to a better balance in healthy bacteria.

Managing the disease with diet can be difficult.

The researchers discovered mesalamine targets a substance known as polyphosphates that regulate how cells behave. Bacteria in the gut manufacture polyphosphates to make them more virulent.

Mesalamine blocks the ability of gut bacteria to colonize and form biofilms that produce more inflammation, the researchers explain.

"We now know that mesalamine is making certain bacteria more sensitive to conditions they would encounter in the inflamed gut, which might explain how mesalamine treatment improves the gut microbiome," said Ursula Jakob, the study's lead investigator.

The finding is published in the journal Nature Microbiology.

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