It seems that all children diagnosed with Crohn disease have an enterovirus in their intestines. Until now, the common link for the chronic inflammatory intestinal disorder had never been reported.
Researchers from Sweden looked at 9 children with advanced ileocecal Crohn disease and 15 additional children with incipient Crohn disease symptoms. Using 2 methods, their findings confirmed that enteroviruses were present in the intestines of all children with the disease. Children in the control group had no or only minimal amounts of enteroviruses in their intestines.
Additionally, the researchers found that the viruses were present not only in the intestinal mucous linings, but also in nerve cell ganglia in deeper segments of the intestinal wall. They also found receptors for a group of enteroviruses in both the intestinal mucous linings and nerve cell ganglia, which, the investigators say, may help to explain how the virus enters into the nervous system in the intestine.
The researchers now hypothesize that enteroviruses may be stored in nerve cells in the intestine and may spread to different parts of the intestine via nerve fibers. They say this would explain the periodicity of the disease and its affinity for attacking multiple sections of the intestines.
The investigators caution that the findings require confirmation with larger studies, but the discovery should help lead to greater understanding of the disorder and its causes.
Crohn disease affects an estimated 700,000 Americans. Although the disease can occur at any age, it is more prevalent among adolescents and young adults between the ages of 15 and 35 years and has been seen in children as young as 8 years.
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