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Restoring bacterial balance in the gut might stop Crohn's flare-ups

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
A new study builds on the importance of microbial balance in the gut for improving Crohn's treatment

Researchers recently investigated what happens in the gut to cause Crohn's disease flare-up following treatment with infliximab. The study investigated how dysbiosis - an imbalance of microbacteria in the body - can predict Crohn's disease relapse.

Crohn's disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that is difficult to treat. Finding new ways to help people who suffer from the disorder is important and could mean lower rates of surgery and hospitalizations.

The disease is thought to be the result of autoimmune dysfunction, but what exactly triggers it for some people is still the subject of investigation. There is some suggestion that the form of IBD is brought about from specific bacteria in the intestines.

Restoring gut microbes could help treat Crohn's disease

The researchers collected stool specimens from 33 study participants to determine the composition of bacteria in the gut. The samples were analyzed at baseline, 2 months, 6 months, and at the end of the follow-up period.

The scientists used 29 healthy volunteers as a control group.

The results showed lower counts of Firmicutes (Clostridium coccoides, C. leptum and Faecalibacterium prausnitzii among Crohn's disease participants. Those who relapsed had lower counts of Firmicutes compared to those who did not relapse.

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Lower numbers of F. prausnitzii and a low rate of Bacteroides predicted Crohn's disease relapse that was independent of the blood biomarker for inflammation known as C-reactive protein.

The finding lends more support to the notion that an imbalance of bacteria in the intestines contributes to the inflammatory bowel disease. It also supports research showing antibiotics may do more harm than good for Crohn's disease patients because the drugs destroy normal intestinal flora.

The study might also help explain why fecal transplant has been found to temporarily improve symptoms of Crohn's disease.

The study authors concluded a goal for optimizing treatment of Crohn's disease could come from restoring normal balance in gut microbes.

Inflammatory Bowel Diseases:
June 2014 - Volume 20 - Issue 6 - p 978-986
doi: 10.1097/MIB.0000000000000036


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Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
Crohn's gastritis
Credit: Nephron