Good Bug Gone Bad?

… why has Crohn’s Disease increased five-fold in Scottish children over the last 35 years?

The nature of the bacterial presence in the gut and its associated importance in health is well documented. Scientists have been referring to ‘good bacteria’ and ‘bad bacteria’, and health food shops have jumped on this band wagon. However, nature is not always necessarily so black and white. Workers at the University of Aberdeen say that a bug thought to be one of the ‘good bacteria’ in our gut may actually have a role in the development of a bowel disorder that is on the rise in Scotland.

The work may help to answer the question: why has Crohn’s Disease increased five-fold in Scottish children over the last 35 years?

The study funded by Chief Scientist Office and also CICRA - Crohn’s In Childhood Research Association- found significantly high levels of Faecalibacterium prausnitizii  in the colon of children with Crohn’s disease. This bug, which is one of the most common found in the gut, up until now has been associated with Crohn’s disease but in a ‘protective’ way, because other studies have found it in low levels in patients with Crohn’s, and because it has anti-inflammatory properties.

The findings have surprised scientists because it goes against current thinking. However they stress more research is needed intoF. prausnitzii before they really understand the part the bug may play in the disorder, which has increased five-fold in Scottish children over the last 35 years.

Dr Richard Hansen, the study co-ordinator for the work just published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology says, “There is a lot of research into inflammatory bowel disease but much of that has focused on Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis in adults.”

The workers were surprised to see a significant increase in the bacterium Faecalibacterium prausnitzii in children with Crohn’s disease. Other studies of patients with Crohn’s disease have reported a reduction in levels of this bug which supports current thinking that it is somehow protective. The finding suggests that this particular bug may not always be a ‘good’ bacterium and may actually contribute to the development of the disease.”

Dr Hansen added: “We now plan to carry out a further study to look at Faecalibacterium prausnitzii specifically and to relate this to a liquid diet treatment that is commonly used to treat Crohn’s disease in children. We also need to understand more about how to restore and retain the normal bacterial communities within the gut.”

Any drug that suppresses inflammation Full medical glossary
A group of organisms too small to be seen with the naked eye, which are usually made up of just a single cell. Full medical glossary
A common name for the large and/or small intestines. Full medical glossary
Inflammation of the colon, also sometimes used to mean inflammation of the large intestine generally. Full medical glossary
The large intestine. Full medical glossary
intermittent claudication Full medical glossary
A group of inflammatory conditions of the intestine. The two major forms are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Full medical glossary
rheumatoid arthritis Full medical glossary
Relating to injury or concern. Full medical glossary
Any abnormal break in the epithelium, the outer layer of cells covering the open surfaces of the body. Full medical glossary