Fungi living in the Gut linked to the Development of Ulcerative Colitis

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Inflammatory Bowel Disease is a chronic disease of the gastrointestinal duct and is quite common in Americans. In fact, latest statistics reveal that almost 1.4 million people residing in the U.S. are affected by the disease with around 30,000 cases being detected annually. One of the frequently observed IBDs is ulcerative colitis wherein the lining of the gut is inflamed and ulcerated. The disease is characterized by pain in abdomen, loose motions, gastrointestinal bleeding and other associated symptoms. It has also been linked with an increased risk of colorectal cancer. Scientists have always wondered about the possible association between the innumerable micro-organisms residing in the gut and the development of inflammatory bowel diseases. Now researchers from the Cedar-Sinai Inflammatory Bowel and Immuno-biology Research Institute have found links between the different fungi present in the gut and IBDs like ulcerative colitis. The research has been published in the recent issue of the journal Science.

The recent study was led by David Underhill, director of the Graduate Program in Biomedical Science and Translational Medicine at Cedar Sinai. The researchers identified more than 100 different species of fungi inhabiting the gut. They found that Dectin 1, a protein produced by the white blood cells, is used by the immune system of the gut to identify and kill these fungi. It was seen that laboratory mice, which lacked Dectin1 showed increased susceptibility to chemically induced colitis. Similarly, a polymorphism in the gene for Dectin 1 (CLEC7A) in humans has been associated with a severe form of ulcerative colitis in humans.

The researchers have opined that a large community of fungi exists in the gut to form a mycobiome. These fungi, along with the bacteria present in the gut, interact with the immune system of the gut and influence the development of various diseases of the gastrointestinal tract.

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Date: 
Sunday, June 17, 2012