The Crohn’s Mystery has NOT BEEN SOLVED
Over the last few weeks I’ve seen several posts about the Crohn’s MAP Vaccine go viral. It has been reposted by the Crohn’s and Colitis Canada Facebook page as well as many other sites around the world. It went viral so quickly that several friends with no connection to Crohn’s sent me a link to an article claiming that the Crohn’s Mystery is Finally Solved (This link and website has been removed and shutdown as of 8/5/17! I would like to think they read this post and decided to remove the article!)
This misleading title leaves me frustrated and angry. This is one of many other titles misleading the general public who is uneducated about what Crohn’s Disease is, leading them into thinking that a simple vaccine or going dairy free will cure all symptoms. I do not blame the ignorance of the public but blame the websites/blogs for misleading readers for the sake of gathering extra views.
This post was from a website but not a credible website. This title was completely false, misleading and clickbait to bring the reader to their website. The website posted their source for the article was from a blog which is not a credible source for scientific information to base the original post on. Yes, FlaredupFitness is a blog/website but I do not gather my information from other blogs or questionable sources. I do the research myself from scientifically reviewed sources or credible websites.
The MAP Vaccine
I have been following the MAP bacteria research for a few years. Mycobacterium Avium subspecies Paratuberculosis (MAP) is a bacteria found in a majority of dairy cows transferring the bacteria to humans through milk from an infected cow. A 2013 study claims that over 70% of American dairy herds are infected with the MAP bacteria (Lombard et al. 2013).
The MAP bacteria is responsible for Johne’s Disease in cattle and other animals. Johne’s Disease is a contagious and chronic infection that affects the small intestine of the animal which is very similar to Crohn’s Disease in humans. One UK study suggested that approximately 7% of all milk contains the MAP bacteria which is not killed off by pasteurization (Millar et al. 1996) which is then consumed transferring the MAP bacteria to humans.
The connection between MAP and Crohn’s is the extremely high prevalence rate of the MAP bacteria present in people with Crohn’s Disease. According to a highly cited paper out of the UK, 92% of patients with Crohn’s Disease test positive for the MAP bacteria (Bull et al. 2003) which can cause dysregulation of the immune system allowing for other bacteria and viruses to penetrate the gut wall causing large inflammation responses which could be a possible cause of Crohn’s Disease in humans.
Crohnsmapvaccine.com is a website dedicated to fund research towards developing a cure for Crohn’s by removing the MAP bacteria in humans. They have developed a vaccine which is currently in preliminary stages. It has proven to be safe and effective for animals and is currently in the process of starting a human trial stage.
My Personal Opinion
With a science undergraduate degree, I have read my share of articles, review articles, scientific documents, lab reports etc. One of the most important things I have learned in my undergrad was to analyze, identify biases and critique scientific literature.
I am skeptical yet optimistic about the whole MAP hypothesis and vaccine. I looked into their research and most of it seems promising and credible. If proven as a cause of Crohn’s, MAP may only be one of many causes of the disease and may not be able to help all Crohn’s patients. The hereditary component of Crohn’s Disease has not been currently proven, but there is evidence to suggest that Crohn’s has a genetic predisposition in some patients (Patel. 2016). Direct family members are at an increased risk of developing Crohn’s Disease as well as high prevalence rates among specific ethnic groups also suggest genetics play a role in development of the disease (Kurata et al. 1992). Depending on which etiological factors an individual with Crohn’s has, the MAP vaccine may not help everyone suffering from Crohn’s.
My other thought is even if the vaccine is successful and can cure symptoms, the vaccine will not reverse previously damaged areas or heal scarred areas of the intestinal tract still requiring surgery.
I am unsure what to think about this upcoming field of research. On one hand, I want nothing more than for the MAP bacteria to be proven as a cause of Crohn’s Disease in humans and on the other hand, additional research needs to be done to obtain a better understanding of the etiological factors of Crohn’s Disease. The Crohn’s Disease mystery has not been solved, not even close. Even the Crohn’s MAP website issued a statement saying they do not approve of the sensationalist headlines made by health websites as research is still in preliminary stages and no conclusion about the vaccine has been made.
Regardless of the result, this research gives everyone hope and a reason to continue fighting. I think this is all very exciting as this could be one of the biggest advancements to date towards finding a cure and getting some answers to the cause of this debilitating disease. Stay tuned for more updates as the human trials for the MAP vaccine progresses.
Bull TJ, Mcminn EJ, Sidi-Boumedine K, Skull A, Durkin D, Neild P, Rhodes G, Pickup R, Hermon-Taylor J. 2003. Detection and Verification of Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis in Fresh Ileocolonic Mucosal Biopsy Specimens from Individuals with and without Crohn’s Disease. Journal of Clinical Microbiology 41:2915–2923.
Kurata JH, Kantor-Fish S, Frankl H, Godby P, Vadheim CM. 1992. Crohns disease among ethnic groups in a large health maintenance organization. Gastroenterology 102:1940–1948.
Lombard J, Gardner I, Jafarzadeh S, Fossler C, Harris B, Capsel R, Wagner B, Johnson W. 2013. Herd-level prevalence of Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis infection in United States dairy herds in 2007. Preventive Veterinary Medicine 108:234–238.
Millar J, Ford J, Sanderson J, Withey S, Tizard M, Doran T, Hermon-Taylor J. 1996. IS900 PCR to detect Mycobacterium paratuberculosis in retail supplies of whole pasteurized cows’ milk in England and Wales. Applied Environmental Microbiology. Sep; 62(9): 3446–3452