Researchers show beneficial role of bacterial DNA in fighting inflammatory bowel disease

A synthetic form of bacterial DNA, when administered to mice bred to model Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), reduces the harmful effects of this serious intestinal disorder while enhancing the immune system. And, because its a man-made version of bacterial DNA, the synthetic compound inhibits the experimental colitis in mice without imposing a bacterial infection.

The findings are reported in the May 2002 issue of the journal Gastroenterology, by researchers at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine, Shaare Zedek Medical Center, Jerusalem, and Tel-Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, Tel-Aviv.

Weve shown that synthetic bacterial DNA prompts the immune system to safely respond to the onset of IBD, said the studys senior author, Eyal Raz, M.D., UCSD associate professor of medicine. Previous studies have shown the beneficial effects of bacterial DNA in treating allergies, but this is the first time it has been used for bowel disease.

The studys first author, Daniel Rachmilewitz, M.D., professor and head of the Division of Internal Medicine at Shaare Zedek Medical Center, Jerusalem, Israel, added that the results in mice are so promising that they hope to begin human clinical trials of the synthetic bacterial DNA.

In addition to offering a potential treatment for IBD, the study supports previous findings that allergic reactions and other immune disorders may be the result of our sanitized, ultra-clean industrial world. Called the hygiene hypothesis, the theory suggests that vaccinations, antibiotics and sanitized living have shielded people from microbes and parasites that do little or no harm. Because human immune systems lack practice in fighting off these common bacteria, the bodys immune response becomes overly aggressive with invading pathogens, attacking both the invader and its own tissues. This leads to the inflammation that is indicative of allergy and disorders like IBD.


Contact: Sue Pondrom
University of California - San Diego

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