Intestinal inflammation in Crohn’s disease patients linked to gut fungi

Gut fungi could be the reason behind inflammation in the intestines of those diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, according to a recent study. New insights into the causes of intestinal inflammation in Crohn’s disease patients come from the results of a study at Case Western Reserve University, where researchers are advancing our understanding of the disease. The study has raised hopes that advanced treatment options for IBD may be within reach sometime in the future.

New Treatments

Crohn’s disease is one of the two major types of IBD and can cause continuous inflammation of the body’s digestive tract. Common symptoms include weight loss, fatigue, diarrhea, and cramping. Although there is currently no cure for the disease, patients can take steps to lessen the symptoms with available treatments. The good news is that a possible new treatment for Crohn’s disease patients could arrive in the not too distant future thanks to new research linking a fungal pathogen to IBD.

The Gut Microbiome Connection

The human body’s gut microbiome is a delicate and complex system of bacteria and fungi in the digestive tract. The study focused on the role of a fungus called Candida tropicalis (C. tropicalis) and the ways it can trigger chronic inflammation. Using animal models, researchers introduced the fungus and induced inflammation of the large intestine. Subjects infected with C. tropicalis had severe inflammation and significant changes in bacteria levels within the gut microbiome.

The findings indicate that an imbalance of bacteria and fungi can create an environment ripe for IBD. Those with a significant bacteria imbalance within the gut microbiome could be predisposed to contracting IBD, researchers say. Additionally, compared to healthy individuals, C. tropicalis tends to show up in higher levels in those with Crohn’s disease. The results are a step in the right direction for understanding how to improve the treatment options for inflammatory diseases of the gut.

New Horizons

Scientists seem to agree that investigating the impact of C. tropicalis on the body’s complex gut microbiome is the key to uncovering new areas of research for Crohn’s disease. “Our findings provide a scientific rationale for eliminating C. tropicalis fungal infection of the gut,” says Fabio Cominelli, in a statement. Cominelli is a professor of medicine and pathology and the associate dean for program development at the Case Western Reserve School of Medicine. “The next step in our research is to study other fungal organisms within the gut and then antifungal therapies in patients with this devastating condition. Remission is very difficult to obtain in Crohn’s disease patients.”  

Find this study in Cellular and Molecular Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

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