(RxWiki News) A naturally occurring antibiotic called defensin may be lacking in patients suffering from inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn's and ulcerative colitis.
Crohn's disease, a severe inflammatory disease of the intestine and digestive tract, affects around half a million people in the United States. A similar disease, ulcerative colitis, primarily involves the colon and shares the same prevalence as Crohn's. These diseases can result in severe and frequent diarrhea, bloody stool, fever and abdominal pain.
Scientists still do not know what causes these inflammatory bowel diseases, but the diseases are often inherited disorders and have a lot to do with a person's immune system and how well enzymes in the gut are able to fight bacteria.
Recently, scientists made a breakthrough in understanding some natural antibiotics in the human body that may play a role in disorders such as these. The human beta-defensin (hBD-1) had previously been tested with oxygen present but there is very little oxygen in the actual human intestine. Scientists therefore chose to study defensins in a low-oxygen setting and found that defensins form a strong antibiotic defense against lactic acid bacteria and yeast.
A lack of defensin is what scientists are theorizing makes people predisposed to developing these bowel disorders. The team also found that another protein, thioredoxin, is a trigger for defensin. A deeper understanding of how the mechanism of defensin works to destroy bacteria in the gut is crucial in developing new therapies for patients suffering from Crohn's and ulcerative colitis.