Inflammatory Bowel Disease May Be Inherited

December 20, 2014
Krystle Vermes

Taking another step toward preventing and treating inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), an international team of investigators has determined that the gut bacteria behind Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis may be inherited, and antibiotics can make those patients' gut imbalance worse.

Taking another step toward preventing and treating inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), an international team of investigators has determined that the gut bacteria behind Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis may be inherited, and antibiotics can make those patients’ gut imbalance worse.

"The intestinal bacteria, or gut microbiome, you develop at a very young age can have a big impact on your health for the rest of your life," noted lead study author Dan Knights, a University of Minnesota assistant professor, in a press release. "We have found groups of genes that may play a role in shaping the development of imbalanced gut microbes."

For their study, which was recently published in Genome Medicine, the researchers observed samples of DNA from 474 IBD patients, as well as the DNA of their intestinal bacteria, over the course of 2 years.

The results showed that the patients’ DNA was linked to the bacteria in their intestines. Additionally, they found that IBD patients had lower diversity of intestinal bacteria, and the use of antibiotics was associated with a greater imbalance among those bacteria. According to the researchers, those findings could aid in developing drug treatments for IBD that target certain genes derived from intestinal bacteria.

"In many cases we're still learning how these bacteria influence our risk of disease, but understanding the human genetics component is a necessary step in unraveling the mystery," Knights said.