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Study Finds Vulnerable Point in Crohn’s-linked bacteria

According to researchers at Weill Cornell Medicine and New York-Presbyterian, a vulnerable point in a type of gut bacteria that causes intestinal inflammation in patients with Crohn’s disease may lead to more targeted therapies. 

The study, published February 3rd in the Cell Host & Microbe, found that patients with Crohn’s disease have a higher level of Adherent-invasive E. coli (AIEC) present in their gut. Their research revealed that a metabolite produced by AIEC causes inflammation by interacting with T cells in the lining of the intestine. In an animal model, researchers successfully relieved gut inflammation by interfering with this process in two ways, reducing the bacteria’s food supply or eliminating a key enzyme in the process.

The team targeted a process the AIEC bacteria uses to convert a byproduct (1,2-propanediol) of fucose fermentation in the gut to grow, which triggers the inflammation response. Fucose is a type of sugar that is found in the lining of the intestines. 
After, the researchers genetically engineered AIEC bacteria, removing a key enzyme called propanediol dehydratase. Without that enzyme, the bacteria did not trigger an inflammation response in the animal model.

This discovery could lead to new and more effective treatments for Crohn’s disease, a disease that affects more than 4 million people worldwide. 

  1. Kuehn, Bridget. “Study Finds ‘Achilles’ Heel’ Of Crohn’s-Linked Bacteria”. Cornell Chronicle, 2021,
  2. Viladomiu, Monica et al. “Adherent-Invasive E. Coli Metabolism Of Propanediol In Crohn’s Disease Regulates Phagocytes To Drive Intestinal Inflammation”. Cell Host & Microbe, 2021. Elsevier BV, doi:10.1016/j.chom.2021.01.002.

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