Researchers have found a correlation between a bacterial-fungal combination and inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s Disease.

Crohn’s Disease is a medical condition in which the immune system becomes inflamed and begins to destroy portions of the intestines. The inflammatory bowel disease causes diarrhea abdominal pain, weight loss and fatigue.

While there are over a half-million people suffering from the symptoms in the US alone, doctors have been unable to identify a cause for the condition until a recent study found new evidence of a bacterial-fungal correlation.

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While previous tests had found a link between the fungi, C. tropicalis, and Crohn’s disease in mice, the link had yet to be observed in humans.

The normal human gastrointestinal system has hundreds of microbiome, which are bacteria and fungi species that aid in the digestive process and protect against germs.

The study identifies a link between two types of bacteria, Escherichia coli and Serratia marcescens, and a fungus, C. tropicalis.

In order to study and compare the microbiome levels amongst Crohn’s Disease patiens, researchers analyzed the fecal matter of nearly 70 participants. Comparing the bacterial and fungi levels of 20 Crohn’s patients to those of their 28 relatives’, researchers found heightened levels of the bacterial-fungal trio.

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Caren Heller, MD, chief scientific officer of the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America, said in a statement, “This study suggests that not only do viruses and bacteria play a role in the development of inflammatory bowel diseases in some patients but fungi may as well.”

The new research contributes substantially to researchers’ understanding of what causes the inflamed bowel conditions of Crohn’s Disease and puts us that much closer to finding a cure.

Lab testing done in the study suggests that the bacterial-fungal trio interact to form a thin, slimy film that latches onto portions of the intestines. The ‘biofilm’ begins to inflame the gastrointestinal tract, causing the painful symptoms found in Crohn’s.

Further studies will be conducted with a different groups of cohorts in order to validate the recent findings and to further develop future treatments and cures for Crohn’s Disease.