A cure for Crohn’s disease—the debilitating inflammatory bowel problem—came a step closer this week after scientists identified a fungus that plays a key role in its development.
Scientists have previously blamed ulcers and bacteria for the cause of the inflammatory disease, but this week’s discovery is the first to link a fungus to the condition, and it could open the doors to new treatments. The researchers, from Case Western Reserve University, also discovered a new bacterium that’s associated with the disease.
Most doctors believe that Crohn’s is caused by an abnormal response of the immune system to bacteria that we all have in our gut—but nobody has looked to see what role that fungus, also present in the intestines, plays.
The researchers analysed samples from 20 Crohn’s patients for levels of bacteria and fungi, and compared them to those from 28 healthy volunteers. The Crohn’s sufferers had “strong fungal-bacterial interactions”, said the researchers, and specifically of the bacteria Escherichia coli and Serratia marcescens, and the fungus Candida tropicalis.
The amounts of all three were far higher in the samples taken from the Crohn’s sufferers, and the researchers also noted that the samples also had far lower amounts of beneficial bacteria.
The discovery is the first to ever link a fungus to Crohn’s disease, and it’s one that could open the door to new therapies, such as different medications and probiotics.
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