A new vaccine offers hope in the fight against Crohn’s disease.Researchers have conducted animal studies, and human trials will begin this summer. Meanwhile, fears are rising that the disease may be caused by a bug present in milk.
One country with a very high incidence of Crohn’s disease is Scotland, where one in 200 people are living with the condition. Most victims are young people and children. Crohn’s can progress to bowel cancer, and as many as 75 percent of afflicted patients eventually need major surgery.
Professor John Hermon-Taylor of King’s College, London believes Crohn’s disease is caused by a bacterium similar to tuberculosis, called MAP (mycobacterium avian subspecies paratuberculosus) . MAP is linked to a similar illness in cattle, sheep, and pigs as well as primates. Taylor theorizes that MAP passes into the food chain through milk and meat to cause human cases of Crohn’s. That same bacterium is also linked to the inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis.
The UK government has commissioned research into the issue. The Government’s Advisory Committee on Dangerous Pathogens issued a report, in which Dr. Ingrid Olsen wrote, “Together with all the genetic susceptibility emerging over the last decade, it is very hard to reject the hypothesis of mycobacteria being involved in the development of CD.”
According to the report, live MAP is present in pasteurized milk supplies at a much greater level than previously suspected. It is estimated that 50 percent of dairy herds in the United Kingdom are affected. MAP has also been found in significant quantities in infant formula, and Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis in babies and children have both risen more than 80 percent in the past few decades.In fact, Crohn’s is rising in many countries, possibly because evidence shows the MAP bacteria survive pasteurization even at very high temperatures.
The vaccine is being developed by the prestigious Jenner’s Institute at King’s College, London. Professor Taylor is hopeful, and he says, “We are extremely confident that the vaccine will work.”
The upcoming first phase of human trials is being funded by HAV Vaccines, Ltd. Funding is still needed for the second phase, and volunteers – most of them Crohn’s patients and their families – are raising 470,000 British Pounds for a diagnostic blood test that will be administered along with the vaccine trials.