Researchers have a new understanding of why some people develop Crohn’s disease: fungi.
A study led by researchers from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine has found that fungus is a key factor in the development of Crohn’s disease. Previous studies have shown that bacteria, genes, and diet all play factors in causing Crohn’s disease. The findings were published in mBio.
“Essentially, patients with Crohn’s have abnormal immune responses to these bacteria, which inhabit the intestines of all people,” senior author Mahmoud A Ghannoum, PhD, professor and director of the Center for Medical Mycology at Case Western Reserve and University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, said in a statement. “While most researchers focus their investigations on these bacteria, few have examined the role of fungi, which are also present in everyone’s intestines.”
The researchers studied the mycobiome and bacteriome of patients with Crohn’s and in their first-degree relatives who did not have Crohn’s, plus families in the area that did not have Crohn’s. The researchers found strong fungal-bacterial interactions in those with Crohn’s disease. The 2 bacteria and 1 fungus found worked together to produce a biofilm that can cause the inflammation the leads to Crohn’s symptoms.
This study represents the first time fungus has been linked to Crohn’s disease in humans. Dr. Ghannoum believes that the findings may lead to a new generation of treatments that can make a real difference in the lives of people with Crohn’s.
Less than a week after the findings were released, the Food and Drug Administration approved another treatment for Crohn’s disease: Stelara. The drug is approved to treat moderately to severely active Crohn’s disease in adults who failed or were intolerant to treatment with immunomodulators or corticosteroids.
“Because of the individual nature of these diseases, what works for one patient may not work for another. That is why it is so critical that our Crohn’s patients have many different treatment options available to them,” Michael Osso, president and CEO of the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America, said in a statement.
He added that with Stelara approved, many patients with moderate-to-severe Crohn’s disease who have exhausted available treatments have another option to hopefully induce remission, help manage their disease, and improve their quality of life.