The presence of Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis (MAP) has previously been inferred in the genesis of Crohn's disease (CD), and a higher incidence of MAP PCR positivity has been demonstrated in the gut and peripheral blood of CD patients than in healthy individuals. The objective of this prospective study was to assess the potential etiological role of MAP in the pathogenesis of CD.
The presence of mycobacteria was assessed in bowel biopsies from newly diagnosed, treatment naïve Norwegian patients with IBD, including CD and ulcerative colitis (UC), as compared to a hospital-based cohort of CD and UC patients. Biopsies were collected from the small and large bowel in 354 individuals with suspected IBD. Detection of mycobacteria was performed by long-term cultivation in combination with direct detection by MAP IS900-specific PCR.
Among the specimens included from the patients with early IBD, samples from only two of the patients with CD (2.7%) and two of the non-IBD controls (1.5%) exhibited a positive growth signal. None of the CD patients and only one of the non-IBD controls was MAP PCR positive. Only the single PCR positive non-IBD control was also mycobacterial culture positive with Mycobacterium avium subsp. hominissuis. In the referral patients with long-term IBD, the prevalence of growth signal and MAP PCR positivity was higher (52 and 9%, respectively).
These findings demonstrate the paucity of MAP in the gut of treatment naïve CD patients. This study does not provide evidence for a role of MAP in early IBD.