Researchers Identify Fungus as Key Factor in Crohn´s Disease Patients

Researchers Identify Fungus as Key Factor in Crohn´s Disease Patients

For the first time, researchers have identified a fungus to be a key factor in the development of Crohn’s disease (CD) in humans. The fungus also was found working together with two kinds of bacteria to produce a “biofilm” in the intestines, leading to inflammation and the symptoms associated with CD.

The study “Bacteriome and Mycobiome Interactions Underscore Microbial Dysbiosis in Familial Crohn’s Disease”, was published in mBio.

“We already know that bacteria, in addition to genetic and dietary factors, play a major role in causing Crohn’s disease,” Mahmoud A Ghannoum, PhD, professor and the study’s senior author, said in a news release. “Essentially, patients with Crohn’s have abnormal immune responses to these bacteria, which inhabit the intestines of all people,” he said.

While most researchers have focused their investigations on these bacteria, few have examined the role of fungus, which exists throughout the body of all humans. Researchers recently identified there are between 9 and 23 fungal species just in our mouths.

Ghannoum and his team investigated the presence of fungus in the intestines of CD patients, and also its interaction with bacteria. They analyzed fecal samples of 20 CD patients and 28 of their healthy relatives. As a comparator group, 21 healthy persons from families with no history of CD were used and all participants were living in northern France-Belgium.

Researchers found the presence of one fungus (Candida tropicalis) to be higher in the CD patients compared to their healthy relatives. This is the first time any fungus has been linked to CD in humans, although it has been found in mice with the disease.

Also, two bacteria (Escherichia coli and Serratia marcescens) were present in the patients to a higher degree. The team found that the fungus and bacteria worked together to produce a biofilm – a thin, slimy layer of microorganisms – adhering to the intestines, which can prompt inflammation leading to the symptoms of CD.

“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,” Ghannoum said. “Furthermore, we found strong similarities in what may be called the ‘gut profiles’ of the Crohn’s-affected families, which were strikingly different from the Crohn’s-free families,” he added.

Crohn’s is caused by inflammation in the intestines; symptoms include severe abdominal pain, diarrhea, weight loss and fatigue. There is no cure for CD and the treatment usually involves medication to dampen inflammation and symptoms or, in certain cases, surgery. The results of research like this could lead to potential new treatments and ultimately, cures for this debilitating inflammatory bowel disease.

8 comments

  1. Mark McCabe says:

    Looking forward to a follow-up study with many more subjects, including CD patients without a family history. Odd statement early in the article gives me pause. My GI doc has always said that diet has a negligible effect on Crohn’s symptoms. One wonders about such a fundamental disagreement.

    • Remy says:

      Agreed, several GI told me too that diet had little to no effect on Crohn’s. It is simply best practice to eat well, more especially when you have a chronic disease affecting your digestive system.

  2. Naax Tamblyn says:

    Have had a life of doctors asking me if I was crazy. seriously, you tell them that you have rectal thrush 3 times a day, and they will be redirected down a psychological testing branch.

    Diagnosed with ulcerrative colitis at 13, rectal fungus from 22 y/o {1998}, which yes does coincide with the introduction of gmo antibiotic classified pesticides. Used to be embarrassed, the embarrassment goes away when you wake up at 3am fisting your own ass for the 238th night in a row

  3. Certain foods contribute to
    liquids leaving the GI tract.
    Other foods contribute to
    absorbing liquids. Some foods
    are acidic, some alkaline. All
    foods in the GI tract help
    create an environment that
    bacteria ( good and bad) and
    fungus ( several ) live, and
    sometimes, in certain people,
    the GI tract is sensitive or
    has an immune response, to
    that environment. Thus, the
    continued disease when the
    dietary influences are not
    considered. Keep looking into
    what certain foods influence
    GI function. It’s a science. Not
    hard to understand, nor
    impossible to stick with. In
    one month, still taking the
    prescribed CD medication,
    you’ll see improved energy,
    appetite, and wellbeing. CD
    not cured, but will continue to
    heal. Your Dr. will then be a
    subscriber to Food as a real
    influence on symptoms.

    • tom says:

      crohns for 31 years and 6 surgeries if the fungus helps that would be great. Hospitalized for 90 days from bladder fusing together with small intestines i’m glade for the possible cure.

  4. Okot Nyormoi, Ph.D. says:

    The discovery of the association of fungus and bacteria in familial CD is interesting and it may lead to the development of effective treatment that targets specific infective agents. Unfortunately, I have seen articles with screaming titles about the discovery of the cause of CD. While I share the enthusiasm and hope that this were true, I suggest that we should restrain the excitement just a little so that we can look at the study more objectively as to what it really means.
    1) Understandably, it may be difficult to obtain a large number of people for the study. However, that cannot remove the concern we should have about the sample size of the study being very small. Until this is confirmed by, preferably larger and multiple studies, the study should at best be regarded as a preliminary, and the results may or may not hold up in subsequent studies.
    2) This study has found an association between specific bacteria and a fungus and CD. Unfortunately, at this point the study does not have the answer to the chicken and the egg question. That is, which came first, the rise in the population of the bacteria/fungus or CD? The design of the study is not a progressive one in which samples were collected from healthy individuals over a period of time to show what came first. It may just turn out that the population of the bacteria/fungus rises only after individuals become afflicted with CD and not because they cause CD. The association may also have no effect on the CD in addition to not causing it.
    3) Even if the bacteria and fungus were to play an important role in either causing or exacerbating the course of CD, more studies will have to be done to determine which of the three agents or combinations are really critical to the disease.
    So, to use a football analogy, while the study by Dr. Mahmoud A Ghannoumit and his collaborators is encouraging in moving the chain, it is yet too early to spike the ball and dance in the end zone.

  5. mom says:

    What is also important to know is that in IBD, the part of fungi is increased. The microbiote of people with IBD has far more fungi than healthy people. The point is that we don’t know it.
    Our daugther is impossible to feed normally since birth. We got her microbiote sequenced in 2 differents labs. Ubiome does not tell you what your fungi part is. They only give you detail about bacteria. But the other lab we used told us our daughter had …. 40% of unknown. Asking for details, we were explained this was not bacteria and no other explanation. Then, looking at medical researches I understand there was something else in the microbiota: the fungi and maybe the virus. So I contacted again the lab to know if this unknown part was fungi or virus and they said it was probably fungi.
    Here we are now with our daughter. I contacted also a specialist in microbiota who leads lots of researches on it, I gave him the net access to the sequencing detail and ask for help. He answered he was sorry but this microbiota was too much of research level for him to be able to help.
    Since that time, I have seen several researches explaining me this answer of the specialist: for example, with mices microbiotes with both bacteria and fungi, they healed pathogene fungus, and what happened then? A more pathogene bacteria took the free space and mices were ill. Similarly, when you fight a pathogene bacteria, another more pathogene bacteria sometimes took the place.
    Those exemples are probably why somtimes when we enter the circle of fighting one there is no end. I read stories with people fighting for years, one time against candidose, the time after against bacterial infections, and then again against fungi trouble and so on.
    intestinal bacteria are still an unknown area where a lot is to understand, so fungi is even worse unknown, and lastly they haven’t got a clue about the interactions between bacteria and fungi.
    So here we are, waiting, and meeting lots of doctors who did not know anything about all this and ask us to feed her with this which make her more ill, or that or send us to psychologists.

    • Tim Bossie says:

      We are so very sorry for your daughter and the problems you are all facing as a family. But, we are also so encouraged by the love that you show for your daughter in your valiant fight. It can seem like it is a rollercoaster without any way to get off. But, we must continue to hope and come together for strength.

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