Antifungals, Probiotics Offer Potential Treatment for Crohn's Disease

Levels of certain bacteria and fungi appear to be higher among individuals with Crohn’s disease.

Fungus may play a key role in chronic intestinal inflammation disorders. Patients with Crohn’s disease tend to have higher levels of the fungus Candida tropicalis compared with their healthy family members.

In a study published in Digestive and Liver Disease, investigators sought to examine the fungal community in the mycobiome.

The investigators characterized the bacteriome and mycobiome in several families who had members with Crohn’s disease and healthy relatives. Next, they defined the microbial interactions leading to microbial imbalance in the family members with Crohn’s disease.

The findings showed that family members with Crohn’s disease had imbalances of C. tropicalis and bacteria Serratia marcescens and Escherichia coli in their gut microbiome.

“The human gastrointestinal (GI) tract is home to trillions of microorganisms, some beneficial and others potentially harmful,” said lead author Mahmoud A. Ghannoum, PhD. “Recent advances in science have allowed us to identify the multitude of organisms inhabiting the gastrointestinal tract and parse out those that play a role in inflammatory bowel disease.

“Unfortunately, most research has focused on studying only the bacteria while overlooking a key player, fungus. In order to address this issue, we have focused our efforts on studying the fungal community in the GI tract known as the mycobiome.”

The investigators also found that the 3 organisms—C. tropicalis, Serratia marcescens, and E. coli—worked together to create robust digestive plaque biofilms capable of exacerbating intestinal inflammation.

These findings provide insight into the roles bacteria and fungi play in Crohn’s disease, and may lead to the development of treatments and diagnostic tests.

According to the authors, potential treatments could include the use of antifungals and even probiotics that aim to balance both bacteria and fungi, while breaking down digestive plaque biofilms.

“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,” Dr Ghannoum said.