Monday, December 10, 2007

Cattle, E. coli and Crohn's Disease

Some news out of the UK could help to explain the cause of Crohn's Disease. For quite a few years, researchers have suspected that a bacterium known as Mycobacterium paratuberculosis was somehow tied in to the disease. M. paratuberculosis, which is found in dairy products, causes a similar disease to Crohn's in cattle, known as Johne's disease. Now a group of researchers from the University of Liverpool think that they have figured out how M. paratuberculosis causes Crohn's disease.

The researchers have determined that M. paratuberculosis produces a molecule that interferes with the ability of macrophages (a type of white blood cell) to kill E. coli. Macrophages play an important role in the immune system, swallowing up invaders and then killing them. Speculation is that this interference might produce inflammation in the intestines, leading to Crohn's.

If this work is corroborated, the researchers believe that it could lead to improved treatment for patients of Crohn's disease.

By the way, people who drink raw milk or who eat dairy products (such as yogurts or cheese) made from raw milk are at an increased risk of encountering Mycobacterium paratuberculosis.

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