Severe Food Poisoning May Be a Cause of Crohn’s Disease

Severe Food Poisoning May Be a Cause of Crohn’s Disease

People who had a severe bout of food poisoning may be at risk of infection by a type of  E. coli bacteria and, possibly, the onset of Crohn’s disease, according to a study published in the journal PLOS Pathogens.

The study, “Acute Infectious Gastroenteritis Potentiates A Crohn’s Disease Pathobiont To Fuel Ongoing Inflammation In The Post-Infectious Period,” was conducted by Cherrie Small and her colleagues at the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research.

Food poisoning — caused by infection with such food-borne organisms as CampylobacterSalmonellaShigella and E. coli O157:H7 —  is a common, but sometimes life-threatening, problem for millions of people. Although certain cases are symptom-free, others can range from mild intestinal discomfort to severe dehydration and bloody diarrhea. or worse.

Researchers used mice with Crohn’s disease — a debilitating bowel disease characterized by the inflammation of the intestines — to understand how food-poisoning bacteria might promote its development. They observed that, in these mice, acute infectious gastroenteritis (inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract) caused by common food-poisoning bacteria contributed to the growth of adherent-invasive E. coli (AIEC), which is associated with Crohn’s onset.

The team also noticed that, even after the bacteria that caused the food poisoning were eliminated, increased levels of AEIC remained in the mice’s intestines, leading to worse symptoms over time. This suggests that people who develop AIEC colonies in their gut at the time of acute infectious gastroenteritis may be at risk for Crohn’s.

“Exposure to pathogens that trigger acute gastroenteritis creates an environment favorable to colonization by AIEC in otherwise uncontrived hosts,” the researchers wrote. “AIEC can be detected in a proportion of healthy individuals, which bears relevance to the finding that infectious gastroenteritis in the general population is a risk factor for [inflammatory bowel disease]. This work provides rationale for the development of novel diagnostic methods that could help identify AIEC-colonized individuals who may be at greater risk following an episode of acute gastroenteritis.”

“This is a lifelong disease that often strikes people in their early years, leading to decades of suffering, an increased risk of colorectal cancer, and an increased risk of premature death,” Dr. Brian Coombes, the study’s senior author, said in a news release.

“We need to understand the root origins of this disease — and to use this information to invigorate a new pipeline of treatments and preventions. It has never been more pressing.”