Crohn's disease is a chronic, debilitating bowel disorder of unknown cause. While surgery and drug therapy can ease the symptoms of Crohn's, there is currently no cure for the illness. Drug therapies used to fight the ulcer-causing bacteria Helicobacter pylori may help treat Crohn's disease.
In an interview with Reuters Health, Mantzaris explained that Crohn's patients in Mediterranean countries appear to have an inordinately high incidence of gastrointestinal infection with the Helicobacter pylori bacterium. In recent years, H. pylori has been identified by researchers as the cause of perhaps the majority of gastrointestinal ulcers.
Mantzaris and his colleagues wondered whether H. pylori treatment might reduce ulcerative symptoms in Crohn's patients. To test this theory, they gave 30 H. pylori-positive patients with early-stage Crohn's disease antibacterial drug therapy for 10 weeks. Another 40 H. pylori-negative patients received prednisolone, a standard medication used to fight Crohn's disease.
The researchers report that, "after treatment, clinical remission (of Crohn's disease) was achieved in all patients" -- regardless of the type of therapy received. At the same time, H. pylori infection was eradicated in 28 of the 30 infected patients.
"What this shows is that by eradicating H. pylori infection... we achieved a remission of Crohn's disease," Mantzaris explained.
The authors stress that their findings do not mean that H. pylori causes Crohn's disease. But it does raise the issue "of whether regimens aiming at eradicating H. pylori in infected patients with Crohn's disease may also achieve remission of Crohn's disease."
It is still too early to determine whether antibacterial drugs can keep Crohn's in remission over the long term. However, studies examining the one-year remission rates of treated subjects are underway. Mantzaris says "preliminary results (show) that patients who received antibiotics have not yet relapsed in the same proportion as the patients who took prednisolone." CDC calls for chickenpox vaccination at school entry
Annual Digestive Disease Week Orlando, Florida May 1999