February 16, 2015

Thinking outside the box about Crohn’s

Posted by WARREN PERLEY – Editor, BestStory.ca
Writing from Montreal

GRAPHIC: istockphoto.com

On February 12, 2015, Washington Post science reporter Joel Achenbach wrote an interesting piece on the Opinion Page of that newspaper saying “we live in an age when all manner of scientific knowledge…faces organized and often furious opposition” from doubters who “have declared war on the consensus of experts.”

Mr. Achenbach was referring to a minority of the population which refuses to accept scientific truths about all manner of public health issues, ranging from vaccinations to climate change.

The day after Mr. Achenbach’s piece was published, BestStory.ca posted an 8,500-word analysis by Dr. Michael T. Collins of the University of Wisconsin about another medical hot potato involving the connection between Crohn’s disease and a bacterium known as Mycobacterium avium paratuberculosis (MAP), which is found in the gut of cattle and other ruminants suffering from a disease called Johne’s, as well as in the intestines of many Crohn’s patients.

MAP has also been found in those suffering from ulcerative colitis, which together with Crohn’s, is collectively known as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), affecting more than 5 million people globally and growing rapidly in the Western world. There are 2.2 million IBD patients in Europe, 1.4 million in the U.S. and 233,000 in Canada, which has the highest per capita rate in the world. Australia has more than 75,000 IBD cases in a population of 23 million.

In addition, countries which traditionally had a low incidence of the disease, such as China, India and Latin America, are reporting a growing number of cases as their economies become more industrialized.

IBD, especially Crohn’s disease, is characterized by chronic diarrhea, abdominal pain and weight loss. Whereas colitis affects only the large intestine, Crohn’s can strike the digestive tract anywhere from the mouth to the anus.

What makes Dr. Collins’ analysis so important to Crohn’s patients and their care-givers is that it lays out, step-by-step, the scientific case that Crohn’s is an infectious disease, rather than strictly an autoimmune condition which is currently treated by most gastroenterologists with immunosuppressant drugs and expensive biologic medical products, such as Remicade™, Humira™ and Stelara™.

That, in turn, means this disease could be treated, and possibly cured, by a mix of three or four antibiotics traditionally used to treat tuberculosis and leprosy, which emanate from the same Mycobacterium genus as does the MAP bacterium found in patients suffering from Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis.

Although most gastroenterologists dismiss out of hand that Crohn’s and colitis are infectious diseases, there are, in fact, a handful of gastroenterologists around the world already successfully treating Crohn’s patients with antibiotics. In the coming months, I plan to do a story on those doctors, as well as some of their patients who have been treated and will share their stories with our readers.

But those are anecdotes: what IBD patients need now are hard, scientific facts which they can share in a frank discussion of treatment options with their gastroenterologists, most of whom will also undoubtedly find Dr. Collins’ analysis about the infectious disease aspect of Crohn’s to be informative if they take the time to read it.

As Mr. Achenbach pointed out in his Washington Post article, there is a tendency for all of us, even those who believe fervently in science (and medical doctors should be near the forefront of that cadre) to seek evidence that confirms what we already believe. But by clinging to shibboleths that defy science and logic, we may be shutting the door to new and better options.

And as Albert Einstein, an acknowledged scientific genius of the 20th century, wrote in a July 8, 1901 letter to family friend Jost Winteler: “A foolish faith in authority is the worst enemy of the truth.”

The very same day we posted our Crohn’s story, I received an email from a new reader in the Maritimes who had just bought the article (all stories behind our paywall sell for 40 cents each) to glean information about how antibiotics might be used to help her 15-year-old son who has Crohn’s. Here is what that reader, who asked me to keep her identity private, had to say:

I am so amazed at the detail of the research and connections presented in Dr. Collins’ analysis: everything has been presented clearly, concisely and in an easy-to-read format. I will definitely forward a link to my son’s GI specialist and to our family doctor for their review….This couldn’t have arrived at a better time. I know I am going to find it invaluable in my attempts to persuade our GI team to think outside the box.

Now I’d like to introduce you to Cheri Lehmann, 55 years old and a life-long Crohn’s sufferer, who is another prime example of the kind of patient who could use the information in Dr. Collins’ scientific analysis to help her seek “the truth” about an antibiotic treatment option.

“This is the first time I’ve ever heard about the possibility of antibiotics [known as the anti-MAP Protocol] being used to treat Crohn’s,” she told me during a February 8, 2015 telephone interview. “My God! I’ve got to find a doctor who could at least give me a chance to be treated with such antibiotics.”

Cheri is a customer service representative in the manufacturing sector who lives in Sussex, Wisconsin, a town of 25,000 located 40 miles east of Madison (where Dr. Collins lives). She is facing a critical juncture in her treatment: in January 2015, she changed jobs and is now waiting to see whether her new insurance plan will cover most of the costs of her weekly injections of Humira™, which add up to about $6,000 a month.

Having lost more than half her small intestine during three surgical resections over the years, Cheri lives in constant pain and discomfort, but considers herself lucky that the Humira™ has been making her condition “bearable”, which still means running to the bathroom with diarrhea between four and eight times daily. She cringes at the thought of what might become of her if she loses her Humira™ injections because without insurance coverage such treatment would be unaffordable. This makes her search all the more urgent for an alternative, such as the anti-MAP Protocol.

Cheri, whose first marriage broke up due to the strain created by her illness, is happily remarried and the mother of two grown children. She has a positive attitude and tries to live every day to the fullest, taking pleasure from all life still has to offer, including country-road spins on her beloved Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Cheri has written a brief but detailed history about her battle with Crohn’s disease in order to help educate the public about the daily pain and stress that IBD, especially Crohn’s disease, inflicts on those it strikes. Below is her story.

SCIENCE – MEDICINE – Crohn's Disease
Published: FEBRUARY 2015
Crohn’s link to bacterium in cows opens door to antibiotic treatment

Analysis by Dr. MICHAEL T. COLLINS
Writing from Madison, Wisconsin

Within the last decade, elite scientists around the world have made a positive link between Crohn’s disease and a bug called Mycobacterium avium paratuberculosis (MAP), seen magnified approximately 50,000 times under an electron microscope in the photo to the left. MAP originates in cattle where it causes Johne’s disease, but it has recently been proven that many Crohn’s patients also are infected with MAP, which is probably the cause of their chronic gut inflammation. Now a scientist, who has spent 30 years studying MAP, explains how these new scientific findings open the door to expanded use of antibiotics to treat, and possibly cure, Crohn’s disease.

8,500 Words | 27 Photos | 4 Illustrations

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SCIENCE – MEDICINE – Crohn's Disease
Published: JUNE 2015
Medical pioneer from Down Under leads world in Crohn’s treatment

Writing from Montreal

Dr. Thomas Borody of Australia enjoys the highest remission rate of any doctor in the world when it comes to treating Crohn’s patients. Now he and U.S.-based Dr. William Chamberlin, who like Dr. Borody treats Crohn’s as an infectious disease, talk about the antibiotic formulas they use, their success rates, and their views on the future direction of Crohn’s treatments. Microbiologist Dr. Saleh Naser of the University of Central Florida explains why the connection between MAP bacterium and Crohn’s continues to confound most microbiologists and gastroenterologists.

12,765 Words | 29 Photos | 4 Illustrations

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