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Study: Foodborne illnesses increase the risk of Crohn's disease

Foodborne illness

(NaturalNews) Anyone who has suffered through a bout of foodborne illness knows that it is quite the unpleasant experience. A new study led by Canadian researchers has revealed that a case of this generally short-term condition can have a lasting impact on your health, especially if you are at risk for Crohn's disease.

Researchers from McMaster University, located in Hamilton, Ontario, have found that exposure to foodborne pathogens may also accelerate the growth of a bacterial species that has been linked to Crohn's disease. The study was published by the journal PLOS Pathogens in early October.

Crohn's disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease, and is a debilitating and painful condition. The condition most often affects the end portion of the small intestine, known as the ileum, however, it can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract, from the mouth to the anus. Unlike ulcerative colitis, which only affects the innermost lining of the colon, Crohn's disease can affect the entire thickness of the bowel wall. The disease is also characterized by patches of affected and unaffected tissue – meaning that some areas may be horribly inflamed, while other patches of tissue remain normal.

The Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America estimates that up to 780,000 Americans are affected by Crohn's disease.

This new research out of Canada provides a little more insight into the development of Crohn's disease. Dr. Brian Coombes, a professor at McMaster University and the study's senior author, states that their results indicate that foodborne illnesses may create an intestinal environment that would allow Crohn's-associated bacteria to flourish. The onset of disease could even occur years after a person has recovered from the initial illness.

"You set up this situation where the pathogen comes in via contaminated food or water, inflammation gets generated, and if that particular host has these Crohn's-associated E.coli already in them, then you've created an environment within the gut that allows them to thrive and grow to very, very high numbers," he explained.

With the help of his team at the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research, Dr. Coombes has been studying the relationship between microorganisms and Crohn's disease. He says that what actually causes the onset of Crohn's disease is still not fully understood by the medical world. He commented, "The pathway to get to Crohn's is really an enigma. People don't really understand in a fulsome way, what generates Crohn's disease. There are lots of risk factors that I would say are very well-known in the literature."

Dr. Coombes says his research was inspired by previous studies that have examined the potential link between foodborne illness and Crohn's disease. When talking about a previously conducted study, Coombes noted that one of the most impressive findings was that even one exposure to food poisoning increased the risk of developing Crohn's disease within the subsequent 15-year period substantially, compared to not being exposed to food-poisoning.

Because there is potentially a very large gap between exposure and disease onset, Coombes is hopeful that a preventive treatment protocol can eventually be developed. If an intervention was available, it could help to reduce the number of people who are eventually affected by Crohn's disease.

Aida Fernandes, vice-president of Research and Patient Programs at Crohn's and Colitis Canada, called the study's findings "very exciting," and expressed the hope that this "important new information ... will continue to shape" future research and potential treatments.

Hopefully, this new research can help build a pathway to prevention, and perhaps even a cure someday.




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