Current therapies for children with Crohn’s disease don’t fully restore healthy bacteria and fungi populations in their digestive systems, a new study shows.
These findings suggest that treatments don’t have to bring bacteria and other microbe levels back to normal levels in the gut to be useful. This knowledge could lead to new approaches for diagnosing and treating inflammatory bowel disease, according to the Oct. 14 study in the journal Cell Host & Microbe.
“We show that microbes in the gut respond to treatment of inflammatory bowel disease in a much more complex way than has been previously appreciated,” co-principal investigator Gary Wu, from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, said in a journal news release.
“The results of our study provide information that could be used to track or predict disease, as well as new diet-based therapeutic strategies,” he added.
The study included 90 children with Crohn’s disease and 26 healthy kids. The kids with Crohn’s disease received either diet-based or anti-inflammatory treatments. None of the treatments fully restored the balance of gut microbes to that of a healthy child, the researchers said.
After starting “a therapeutic formula-based diet, the gut microbiota look even less similar to that of a healthy child, suggesting that one does not have to necessarily give back the healthy microbiota to have a therapeutic effect. It is possible that the effect of the formula diet is through mechanisms other than altering the microbial community,” study first author James Lewis, from the University of Pennsylvania, said in the news release.
The researchers also found that the youngsters who responded to treatment had different changes in their gut microbes compared to kids who didn’t respond. This suggests that a patient’s gut population could be used to predict how someone might respond to therapy, the researchers said.
The U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has more about Crohn’s disease.