APR 13, 2021 8:15 AM PDT

Food-borne Fungus Impedes Gut Healing

WRITTEN BY: Tara Fernandez

In a recent study, researchers discovered that a fungus present in cheese, processed meats, beer, and other fermented foods infects inflamed gut regions in individuals with Crohn’s disease, delaying healing.

Crohn’s is a form of inflammatory bowel disease characterized by persistent inflammation in the digestive tract. Patients typically face ongoing and repeated cycles of flare-ups that subside over time. At their peak, the inner lining of the intestines breaks out in open sores, which can take weeks or even months to heal fully. 

To understand what role the intestinal microbiome plays in aggravating these symptoms, Umang Jain and colleagues took a closer look at gut wounds in a mouse model. Sequencing the DNA isolated from the intestinal microbiome revealed that the inflamed intestinal regions had an abundance of the fungus Debaryomyces hansenii.

Jain’s team also analyzed intestinal biopsies from Crohn’s patients and healthy individuals and found that injury and inflammation sites also harbored significant levels of the fungus.

“If you look at stool samples from healthy people, this fungus is highly abundant,” Jain explained. “It goes into your body and comes out again. But people with Crohn’s disease have a defect in the intestinal barrier that enables the fungus to get into the tissue and survive there. And then it makes itself at home in ulcers and sites of inflammation and prevents those areas from healing.”

The study's findings suggest that eliminating the food-borne fungus (either pharmaceutically or through dietary changes) might help alleviate gut inflammation in these patients. According to Jain, this could help restore normal healing mechanisms in the gut and help improve the quality of life in these patients.

 

Sources: Science, Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

About the Author
  • Tara Fernandez has a PhD in Cell Biology and has spent over a decade uncovering the molecular basis of diseases ranging from skin cancer to obesity and diabetes. She currently works on developing and marketing disruptive new technologies in the biotechnology industry. Her areas of interest include innovation in molecular diagnostics, cell therapies, and immunology. She actively participates in various science communication and public engagement initiatives to promote STEM in the community.
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