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Specific gut bacteria found for Crohn's disease

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Crohn's disease gut bacteria identified in those newly diagnosed.

Researchers have identified specific gut bacteria found in people with Crohn’s disease that they say could mean better treatment. Scientists for the the new study say though they still don’t know the exact cause of Crohn’s their findings point to an autoimmune response to specific bacteria in the intestines.

The large study is a collaborative effort of 28 gastroenterology centers investigating how microbes in the gut contribute to bowel inflammation.

For their discovery the researchers obtained biopsies from 447 people with Crohn’s disease from various parts of the intestine who were newly diagnosed. The researchers compared the results to 221 people without Crohn’s disease.

Patients with Crohn’s disease that were newly diagnosed had an abundance of disease causing bacteria and were missing microbes that are beneficial.

Finding a better therapy

The study also showed missing beneficial bacteria in the intestines correlated with increased Crohn's disease activity.

The study authors write their finding showed "...increased abundance in bacteria which include Enterobacteriaceae, Pasteurellacaea, Veillonellaceae, and Fusobacteriaceae, and decreased abundance in Erysipelotrichales, Bacteroidales, and Clostridiales," that also paralleled increased Crohn's disease activity.

"These findings can guide the development of better diagnostics," says senior author Dr. Ramnik Xavier of Massachusetts General Hospital and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in a press release. But Xavier adds the most important finding is that there are specific organisms in the gut that are either increased or decreased in people with Crohn’s disease, which could mean better therapies.

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An example is antibiotics used to treat children with Crohn’s disease. The researchers say some of the medications wipe out good bacteria while causing an increase in harmful intestinal microbes.

To validate their findings the researchers also sampled 1,742 pediatric and adult patients with either new-onset or established Crohn’s disease, using various methods of detecting gut bacteria. They discovered testing rectal tissue; not fecal sampling could indicate Crohn’s disease even in the absence of symptoms. What that means is less invasive ways to diagnose Crohn’s disease early.

The finding is published in the journal Cell Host & Microbe.

Past studies show early intervention with TNF agents leads to better outcomes of the debilitating condition but one of the barriers for initiating early treatment is the time it takes to diagnose the disease. The new and large study shows IBD including Crohn's disease could be diagnosed more easily by looking at gut bacterial balance. It also shows an underlying cause of Crohn's disease that is an autoimmune response to bacteria in the gut.


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Image credit: Wikimedia Commons