New research published in Science Translational Medicine has revealed a bacterial link between Crohn’s disease and arthritis. Crohn’s is a form of inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD, that causes abdominal pain and diarrhea, and patients have also reported experiencing joint pain.
The immune system of patients with Crohn’s attacks the bowels and digestive system, but it can also target the musculoskeletal system and cause spondyloarthritis, resulting in spine and joint pain. This new research has found a link between the two conditions that may help explain why the immune system can turn its sights on the musculoskeletal system.
Researchers gathered fecal samples from patients with IBD and found that those with IBD and spondyloarthritis had a significant presence of E. coli bacteria in their samples. These samples, as well as mouse models, were used by the team to conclude that the E. coli bacteria was connected to the cells that help regulate inflammation in individuals with autoimmune disorders. Patients who had both Crohn’s disease and spondyloarthritis were found to have higher levels of these inflammation regulating cells, which are triggered by a protein known as IL-23.
Recently, the FDA approved a medication with anti-IL-23 properties, meaning that the proteins triggering the inflammatory cells could be inhibited, resulting in less irritation for those with Crohn’s and spondyloarthritis. Dr. Kenneth Simpson, the co-author of the study, explained: “If we can block the ability of bacteria to induce inflammation, we may be able to kick Crohn’s disease and spondyloarthritis into remission.”
These results have provided a target for potential treatments and medications, and with a better understanding of the inflammation caused by bacteria, scientists may be able to develop better treatment options to relieve the symptoms of Crohn’s and spondyloarthritis. They also open the door for the development of more personalized treatment regimens, as doctors may soon be able to address sources of inflammation specific to each patient.