Crohn's disease is a is an inflammatory condition located in the gastrointestinal tract. In the U.S., nearly 700,000 people are affected by Crohn's, according to the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America. People who have this condition often experience diarrhea, rectal bleeding, abdominal pain and other uncomfortable symptoms. Currently, there is no cure, and treatment usually involves medication as well as a change in nutritional and dietary habits. In some cases, surgery is necessary to repair damaged sections of the GI tract.
A study recently published in the journal mBio, however, discovered a new factor in Crohn's disease that may lead to alternative treatment approaches. The report notes an interaction between the fungus Candida tropicalis and two bacteria (Escherichia coli and Serratia marcescens). Fungus and bacteria are normally found throughout the body, but in people with Crohn's disease, the immune system tends to react abnormally to bacteria. Further, the bacteria and fungi noted in the study can interact and result in inflammation that produces symptoms of Crohn's disease.
"Among hundreds of bacterial and fungal species inhabiting the intestines, it is telling that the three we identified were so highly correlated in Crohn's patients," said Mahmoud A. Ghannoum, Ph.D., professor and director of the Center for Medical Mycology at Case Western Reserve and University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, in a press release.
The mBio study is the first one to link a fungus to Crohn's in humans. This new revelation can open the door to a whole new area of treatment approaches, and perhaps an eventual cure.
Factors that affect Crohn's disease
It is not completely clear what causes Crohn's disease. A lot of factors come into play when analyzing the condition. The disease can usually be found in more than one family member, whether a parent or sibling. Location has also been found to play a role in the disease. Crohn's is more common in northern climates and urban areas than southern or rural locations.
Stress and diet are other factors that can impact a Crohn's condition. If people with this disease become anxious, it has the potential to aggravate the condition and cause a flare-up. The same can happen because of a person's diet. People with Crohn's often have difficulty digesting certain types of food and have to avoid them during meals or risk discomfort.
The findings of the mBio study will hopefully create a broader range of treatment for people with this disease. In the meantime, if you or a loved one has Crohn's, focusing on your diet can help control your symptoms. However, if you have to avoid certain foods because of your condition, make sure you're still receiving the right nutrients.
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