Researchers in Sweden have tentatively linked Crohn’s disease to an enterovirus that is commonly found in the intestines. Crohn’s disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease that can cause chronic diarrhea and stomach pain. The cause of the disease is not currently known.
In a new study published in the journal Clinical and Translational Gastroenterology, researchers at Uppsala University investigated RNA viruses in children suffering from Crohn’s disease. Enteroviruses, those that infect human intestinal mucous lining, were found to be particularly prevalent.
The researchers state that they found “significant amounts” of enteroviruses in the intestines of every child with Crohn’s disease they tested. A control group of children without Crohn’s desease were found to have few, if any enteroviruses. For children with Crohn’s, enteroviruses were also found in the nerve cell ganglia in the intestinal wall.
Alkwin Wanders, a co-author of the study and a pathologist at Uppsala, stated that the enterovirus could be stored in nerve cells, and spread through the intestine using nerve fibres. He believes this could explain how Crohn’s disease is often periodic and affects multiple segments of the intestines.
The researchers stress that their findings will need to be confirmed in larger studies, but that they believe the connection to be important. The study used only 24 children suffering from the symptoms of Crohn’s disease.