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On the Etiology of Crohn Disease

This paper was published in September 1996 in the "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA", by Greenstein et al. It contains some important information and reaches important conclusions.

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The research team used genetic techniques to search for "insertion sequences" which are unique to Mycobacterium paratuberculosis (IS900), in tissues surgically removed from patients with Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis and cancer.

Here is a summary of the main points of the paper.

  • DNA from M. paratuberculosis was found in all samples taken from patients with Crohn's disease and with ulcerative colitis. No M. paratuberculosis DNA was found in patients not suffering from inflammatory bowel disease.

  • RNA from M. paratuberculosis was found all samples taken from patients with inflammatory bowel disease. Since RNA is chemically unstable and lasts only a short time, detecting its presence proves that the Mycobacteria paratuberculosis that produced the RNA were active and metabolizing, i.e. alive and kicking.

  • A sample of the mycobacterium M. avium, originally cultured from the water supply of a major city in the USA, was not M. avium at all. In fact, it was M. paratuberculosis. This illustrates that the municipal water supply may be a reservoir for infection with M. paratuberculosis.

  • Crohn's disease has been mistakenly pictured as a homogenous disease, i.e. it has the same effect on everyone. It is theorised that Crohn's disease comes in two forms, the contained nonperforating form and the aggressive perforating form.

  • The reason for failure of clinical trials of antimycobacterial drugs against Crohn's disease is because the study population was not split into the perforating and nonperforating forms before each trial.

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  Related Information


Full text

Biopsy studies of Crohn's Disease Patients.

Science News Online:- Gastrointestinal Blues:- Research finds bugs that inflame the human gut.

The polar manifestations of mycobacterial diseases and of Crohn's disease.

Immune reactions to mycobacteria