Promising new treatment for Crohn's disease

Probiotics and inflammatory bowel disease

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Scientists have found a strain of probiotic, or “good bacteria,” that could treat Crohn's disease, where other probiotics have failed.

Crohn's disease patients who are in remission often take probiotics to keep the disease from coming back, but probiotics don't seem to help while the disease is active. In a new study, scientists have figured out why traditional probiotics don't work – and isolated a new strain of bacteria that overcome their faults.

"Crohn's disease may someday be treated with probiotics."

Probiotics are live microorganisms that have health benefits. They're often used to treat or prevent gastrointestinal conditions like diarrhea, and most probiotics currently on the market are lactic acid bacteria (LAB).

When Crohn's is active, patients have higher-than-usual iron levels in their gut because of inflammation, bleeding and stress. Iron helps most bacteria and pathogens grow, especially the adherent-invasive E. coli (AIEC) which is thought to be one of the environmental triggers of Crohn's. Most probiotics currently on the market are lactic acid bacteria (LAB, Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium).

What's unusal about LAB is that they don't need iron to grow, so they don't increase their growth rate when exposed to iron. In the inflammatory setting of Crohn's disease, they're then rendered ineffective and overrun by other bacteria who do respond to iron.

The research team then started looking for a probiotic that would be able to grow in high levels of iron, and reduce inflammation. They found a strain of Streptococcus thermophilus that thrive in that environment, and work to fight the body's response to pathogens in the gut.

The scientists have patented that strain, and the next step is to test it in clinical trials. The research was published in the journal PloS One, in October 2011.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 20, 2011
Last Updated:
October 27, 2011