New therapy for IBD includes antifungals and probiotics for treating Crohn’s disease
03/10/2019 // David Williams // Views

A new study that was recently published in the journal Digestive and Liver Disease has revealed that there may be a new way to treat chronic intestinal inflammation disorders. It involves the use of antifungals and probiotics, making them work together in order to promote what can only be a healthy balance of microorganisms throughout a person's gut.

The research authors explain how they first discovered that certain kinds of bacteria and fungi seem to be working together and end up aggravating gut inflammation in Crohn's disease, which is a kind of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). IBD is a known long-term illness, of which there are two main forms -- ulcerative colitis, and Crohn's disease.

According to the researchers, patients who have Crohn's disease typically have much higher levels of the fungus Candida tropicalis in their system compared with healthier individuals. And from their study, the researchers were able to determine that since there are so many microorganisms living in the gastrointestinal tract of the patients, some of them can be beneficial as well as harmful. In fact, there are some who play a direct role in IBD.

The study's lead author, Mahmoud A. Ghannoum, Ph.D., of the Center for Medical Mycology, Department of Dermatology, Case Western Reserve University and University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, says that recent advances in science have enabled his team of researchers to figure out exactly which ones among the multitude of organisms in the GI tract can help them in their objectives. "Unfortunately, most research has focused on studying only the bacteria while overlooking a key player, fungus," explains Ghannoum. "In order to address this issue, we have focused our efforts on studying the fungal community in the GI tract known as the mycobiome."


Relationships between microorganisms

The link between bacteria and fungi that are present in the gut has long been established. However, this study is the first time that proves that they work together to make the inflammatory symptoms in Crohn's disease worse. These research results clearly give some insight into the roles that these microorganisms play in Crohn's disease, and could lead to the development of novel treatment approaches as well as new diagnostic tests for similar diseases and other severe digestive problems.

One such potential treatment could come in the form of using antifungals or probiotics which are designed to balance both bacteria and fungi levels, while simultaneously breaking down biofilms in digestive plaque. Antifungals will serve the role of controlling fungi overgrowth, while probiotics can help restore and maintain the balance of microbiota in the gut, according to the study authors.

"Our ground-breaking discovery that bacteria and fungi both play a critical role in health and disease has tremendous implications not only for understanding the disease process, but also for development of potentially life changing treatments for those who suffer from chronic digestive diseases," concludes Dr. Ghannoum.

The role of probiotics

It is well-known that probiotics can play a vital role in the overall health of the gut. In the future, the researchers are hoping to discover more ways to take advantage of this fact by finding out how to best pair them with bacteria and other microorganisms in order to achieve specified results. Perhaps the same process of "deep sequencing" can be used in order to study the genetic makeup of said microorganisms and to have a better understanding of them and how they operate. For now, further research into this very subject will be necessary to gain more knowledge and insight on the matter.

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