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Fungus in humans identified for first time as key factor in Crohn's disease


(NaturalNews) The myriad of intestinal problems that falls under the umbrella of Crohn's disease may not simply be a factor of bacterial abnormalities, a new study has found. Researchers from Case Western Reserve University in Ohio have identified, for the first time, the presence of a toxic fungus inside the human body that they say may play a key role in this debilitating digestive malady -- a potential game-changer for how Crohn's disease is treated moving forward.

Published in the journal mBio, the breakthrough findings show that inflammatory bowel disease, which is often marked by symptoms of abdominal pain, chronic diarrhea, inexplicable weight loss, and chronic fatigue, may be a product of harmful bacteria working in tandem with this fungus to disrupt the functionality of the digestive tract. These malignant microorganisms work together to create the conditions necessary for diseases like Crohn's to thrive.

Even though bacteria and fungi are both recognized in scientific literature to be microorganisms, fungi are more advanced in that their cells contain nuclei. Bacteria, on the other hand, are single-celled organisms that do not contain nuclei. Also known as eukaryotes, fungi can live amongst bacteria, or prokaryotes, and form communities that affect the way the body processes food and nutrients.

According to researchers, the human body contains all sorts of naturally-occurring fungi, some 23 species of which live in the mouth alone. But not all varieties of these fungi are beneficial, and some of them, including Candida tropicalis, are a persistent detriment, especially when they team up with bacterial strains like Escherichia coli and Serratia marcescens to wreak havoc throughout the intestinal tract.

Malignant fungi behind formation of highly inflammatory 'biofilm'
For their research, lead author Dr. Mahmoud A. Ghannoum, Ph.D., a professor and director at the Center for Medical Mycology at Case Western Reserve and University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, and his colleagues looked at the fungal and bacterial profiles of patients with Crohn's disease, along with their families. Fungal communities are known as the mycobiome, by the way, while bacterial communities are known as the bacteriome.

After looking at both microorganism communities as present in fecal samples taken from both Crohn's patients and controls, Dr. Ghannoum and his team found that E. coli, S. marcescens, and C. tropicalis were present in much higher levels inside those with Crohn's compared to those without it. Furthermore, they found that the three microorganisms work together to produce what's known as biofilm -- a thin, slimy layer of microorganisms that binds to and coats the intestinal tract.

When biofilm is present, it causes inflammatory symptoms throughout the gut that match those of Crohn's and other similar inflammatory bowel conditions. And since it seems to form with the help of previously undetected fungi, experts are reeling in amazement that they didn't spot this common thread much earlier.

"We already know that bacteria, in addition to genetic and dietary factors, play a major role in causing Crohn's disease," Dr. Ghannoum stated about the findings. "Essentially, patients with Crohn's have abnormal immune responses to these bacteria, which inhabit the intestines of all people. While most researchers focus their investigations on these bacteria, few have examined the role of fungi, which are also present in everyone's intestines."

"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. 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 ... Further research is needed to be even more specific in identifying precipitators and contributors of Crohn's."




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