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Could cows hold the cure for Crohn’s?

A pathogen found in cattle may lead to a cure for Crohn’s disease


 

Could cows hold the cure for Crohn's?Provincial agriculture ministries, farmers and veterinarians are stepping up efforts to control Johne’s disease, a common intestinal illness that affects cattle and other ruminants. On Jan. 1, Ontario’s dairy industry launched an unprecedented four-year mass program of subsidized testing and culling of animals that have high levels of the Johne’s bacteria.

Suppressing Johne’s (pronounced “yoh-knees”), which is acquired by calves at birth but doesn’t usually cause diarrhea and weight loss until an animal is three or more years old, would be good for milk production. But there’s another reason for action. The pathogen that causes Johne’s, Mycobacterium avium paratuberculosis (MAP), is known to pass into milk and survive pasteurization. It may play a role in a human sickness estimated to affect more than 80,000 Canadians: Crohn’s disease.

The possibility is very speculative, though one Australian pharma company, Giaconda, is testing a mix of MAP-targeted antibiotics as a Crohn’s treatment. “I’d say there’s a big question mark around that hypothesis,” says Gerald Hauer, Alberta’s chief provincial veterinarian. “It has never been proven, and the literature always seems to be split down the middle.”

Researchers noticed as early as 1913 that Crohn’s disease lesions actually look a lot like Johne’s. And an August 2007 literature review in Lancet Infectious Diseases found that Crohn’s patients in 28 studies were, overall, much more likely to have MAP in their guts. What nobody knows is whether Crohn’s made those patients more vulnerable to MAP infestation, or whether MAP caused the Crohn’s.

With the question open, Canadian dairymen, mindful of the BSE/mad-cow ordeal their beef-raising brethren are still emerging from, aren’t waiting around passively for a food panic and the erecting of trade barriers.


 

Could cows hold the cure for Crohn’s?

  1. Fact Check:

    There are At LEAST 200,000 Canadians living with IBD's. More than half have Crohns and the numbers are weak and incomplete (check on CCFC website, epidemiological study 2006)

    • Thank you for stressing at least, you can appreciate that the article is written but at the same time, I wish they could get the numbers correct or not be off by 120,000 people.

  2. This is such a load! Here in Calgary Alberta, the GI surgeons and the GI specialists have told me that the first thing they test for when they biopsy a person for C.D. is MAP. I have tested negative, and the crohn's that afflicts me is the one that attacks the small intestine…pretty text book really.
    I'm glad that macleans says "speculative" in this article…wonder why Giaconda's stocks aren't doing that well…

  3. I also wasn't sure that the G.I. specialists test was that thorough, so I proceeded to get a TB mantoux skin test (tested negative), and also a Comprehensive Digestive Stool Analysis (CDSA 2.0/P) from Genova Diagnostics. The CDSA found no infectious bacterium…now, not sure if those two other tests are definitive, but I'm doubtful that from all those tests that I have M.A.P. infections. That being said, I strongly believe that Crohn's is caused from a bacterial infection. I'd like to sick the guy that found the H.Pylori bacteria on this one!

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