Preliminary Evidence Shown for Link between Crohn’s Disease and Enterovirus

A new study reveals that all children with Crohn’s disease who were examined had a commonly occurring virus – an enterovirus – in their intestines. This link has previously not been shown for this chronic inflammatory intestinal disorder. The findings were published online on June 27, 2013 in an open-access article of the international journal Clinical and Translational Gastroenterology. These findings need to be confirmed in larger studies, but they are important, as this connection has never been pointed out before. This paves the way for a better understanding of what might be involved in causing the disease, says Dr. Alkwin Wanders, one of the scientists behind the study at Uppsala University and Uppsala University Hospital in Sweden. In Sweden, several thousand adults live with Crohn’s disease, and each year about 100 children and adolescents develop the disorder. The disease affects various parts of the gastrointestinal system and causes symptoms such as stomach aches, diarrhea, and weight loss – in severe cases fistulas, or strictures in the intestines. The cause of Crohn’s disease is not known. Mutations in more than 140 genes have been shown to be associated with the disorder, but this genetic connection is not a sufficient explanation. Many of these genes play key roles in the immune defense, which has prompted theories that the disease might be caused by impaired immune defense against various microorganisms. In that case, the disease would be a consequence of interplay between heredity and environment. Recent research has shown that some of the genes that are strongly linked to the disorder are important for the immune defense against viruses that have their genetic material in the form of RNA, so-called RNA viruses.
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