Today, March 12, the findings of a large study were released that indicate the gut microbe in persons with Inflammatory Bowel Disease, or IBD, have more than a lot to do with these gut disorders. The two main IBDs are ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, though suffering extends to other similar conditions, bad news for anyone who has experienced the pain associated with an IBD. Symptoms include pain, often severe, as well as diarrhea and sometimes rectal bleeding.
Up until today’s release of the findings of this study, antibiotics have commonly been used in early treatments for Crohn’s and similar conditions, as it has been thought that “bad” bacteria play a role. It has indeed been proven, now, that harmful gut bacteria including Fusobacteriaceae, Pasteurellaceae, Enterobacteriaceae and Veillonellaceae are culprits factoring into these debilitating diseases, however, and this is important, as of this study it is known that antibiotics will likely make things worse. This is because findings show children in the early stages of definitive Crohn’s disease have many more bad bacteria and significantly lower good bacteria than their peers suffering from non-inflammatory bowel disturbances. As antibiotics kill good bacteria just as easily as bad, taking them will deplete sufferers even further of the beneficial bacteria, such as Clostridiales, Bacteroidales and Erysipelotrichales. This is bad news for Crohn’s Sufferers.
The study, which was done with the participation of multiple institutions, was headed by Dr. Ramnik Xavier of Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). Dr. Xavier is chief of the hospital as well as director of the hospital’s Center for the Study of Inflammatory Bowel Disease. The MGH in conjunction with the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard led the study in which samples were taken from a total of 668 participants from 28 U.S. and Canadian centers. 447 children had the bad luck to be newly diagnosed as suffering from Crohn’s or another IBD. The remaining 221 children were control participants, and had other gastrointestinal complaints that were not inflammatory in nature. Findings were also combined with those from various other previous clinical trials to make the population of the overall study amount to more than 1500 participants.
The findings are irrefutable: Crohn’s and IBD patients showed a massive imbalance in bad versus good bacteria, whereas the control participants did not. It is unfortunately still unclear whether the bacteria are the cause of the diseases or the result, but one thing is certain: antibiotics, still up on the Mayo Clinic’s website as an avenue of treatment (and in this they are not being singled out; the Mayo Clinic is a reputable medical facility that would only post the most recent information available, hence it can be inferred that hundreds or thousands of other sites list the same information) should not be a treatment for people with Crohn’s or any IBD, or at the very least should be used with great caution.
There is one bit of news that is good in all the bad: people might now be tested for Crohn’s with a rectal swab instead of by colonoscopy, as the study turned up that the bacterial imbalance continues downwards to the upper rectum. Also, this autoimmune disease that may have hereditary factors is not caused by poor eating or stress, though those can certainly exacerbate things. Present treatments include anti-inflammatory drugs and corticosteroids, as well as immune-suppressing drugs. These all can have nasty side effects, but now that researchers are learning more than ever about the role bacterium play, hopefully future treatments might include new methods of simply balancing one’s gut microbial environs.
By Julie Mahfood
*The author of this article erroneously wrote Irritable Bowel Disorder instead of Inflammatory Bowel Disease. The first, which was incorrect, suggests IBS or Irritable Bowel Syndrome, a catch-all phrase that does not encompass what Crohn’s and colitis are. Apologies to my readers, with no excuse other than fatigue and being human. Please accept this correction.
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