Chance discovery links inflammatory bowel disease with common bacterial gut toxin

May 17, 2018, John Innes Centre
Professor Tony Maxwell's team at the John Innes Centre, Norwich, worked with colleagues at Brigham and Women's Hospital (Boston, USA) to uncover the surprise link. Credit: Andrew Davis

New research has uncovered a surprise link between a common bacterial toxin found in the gut and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

The researchers at the John Innes Centre, Norwich, UK, working alongside a team of scientists from Brigham and Women's Hospital (Boston, USA), have helped establish a connection between microcin B17, a well-known toxin produced by E. coli bacteria, and IBD.

IBD includes long-term conditions such Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis which together affect more than 300,000 people in the UK.

The research, published today in the peer-reviewed journal Cell, raises prospects of future therapy for IBD sufferers.

The John Innes Centre scientists, led by Professor Tony Maxwell, have been working with microcin B17 for several years in their search for new antibiotics. It is produced by E. coli (Escherichia coli) as a weapon against other bacteria in the gut.

Professor Maxwell says: 'This is largely a chance finding. We have been studying this toxin for its antibacterial properties and we were contacted by Professor Richard Blumberg who leads the Boston group for quite different reasons—they thought there might be a connection between the toxin and IBD."

The two teams worked together to show that breakdown products from the toxin seem to trigger that is characteristic of IBD.

The research, furthermore, identifies the oxazole class of aromatic organic compounds as a new source of environmental and microbial triggers of gastrointestinal inflammation.

Dr. Fred Collin, a postdoctoral researcher in Professor Maxwell's lab, who carried out key aspects of the work says: 'These findings will advance our understanding of how gut inflammation associated with IBD may be triggered and offer new hope of potential future therapy."

The research team say that advances in genome-wide association studies have established genetic links with the development of IBD. But environmental elements and host reactions have yet to bet precisely defined.

In addition to increasing public understanding of IBD, the study sheds new light on the microbiome, the trillions of bacteria in the gut.

"The bacteria that live inside us have a lot of impact on well-being and the twist here is that it's not the E. coli bacteria but the toxin that's produced by the that appears to have an effect," explains Professor Maxwell.

"They produce these toxins to kill their neighbours in their fight for ecological niches but it appears that the breakdown products of the can initiate gut inflammation," he adds.

Explore further: E. coli's internal bomb may provide novel target for treatment strategy

More information: Cell (2018). DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2018.04.037

Related Stories

E. coli's internal bomb may provide novel target for treatment strategy

April 21, 2018
Bacteria's internal bomb, the so-called toxin-antitoxin (TA) system that is part of the normal bacterial makeup, may be triggered to make bacteria turn on themselves, providing a valuable target for novel antimicrobial approaches ...

Shiga toxin-producing E. coli in food

May 9, 2018
Escherichia coli (E. coli) is a germ that occurs naturally in the gut of mammals and birds, as well as in the human intestinal flora. However, certain E. coli types can cause severe diarrhea in humans. These virulent E. coli ...

Recommended for you

Nicotine mimics may have therapeutic effect on inflammatory diseases

July 12, 2018
Stanford researchers discovered that a receptor that binds to nicotine and to clusters of beta-amyloid molecules is found on certain types of immune cells that can act as suppressors and regulators of the immune system.

Study shows BPA risk factor for inflammatory bowel disease

July 5, 2018
A recent study in a preclinical model of inflammatory bowel disease shows dietary exposure to bisphenol-A, or BPA, found in polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins, can increase mortality and worsen its symptoms.

Mid- to late-life increases in marker of chronic inflammation tied to dementia

July 2, 2018
Researchers at Johns Hopkins have added to evidence that rising and chronic inflammation as measured by a biomarker in the blood in middle and late age are linked to visible structural changes in the brains of people with ...

Research team diagnoses asthma with nasal brush test

June 11, 2018
Mount Sinai researchers have identified a genetic biomarker of asthma that can be tested for using a simple nasal brush and basic follow-up data analysis. This inexpensive diagnostic test can accurately identify mild to moderate ...

Eosinophilic esophagitis may be due to missing protein

June 7, 2018
Scientists have discovered that the absence of a specific protein in cells lining the esophagus may cause inflammation and tissue damage in people with eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE). EoE affects as many as 150,000 people ...

Mouse study links triclosan, a common antimicrobial, to colonic inflammation

May 30, 2018
A large research team led by senior author Guodong Zhang at the University of Massachusetts Amherst reports that the antimicrobial ingredient triclosan, found in hand soaps and toothpastes among other products, could have ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.