Potential Broad-Spectrum Crohn’s Disease Antibiotic
Colitis is an umbrella term describing diseases that relate to the inflammation of lining of the colon. One form of Colitis is Crohn’s Disease. Crohn’s disease is an autoimmune disease and an IBD or inflammatory bowel disease. It can cause malnutrition, weight loss, fatigue, abdominal pain, ulcers, and scarring and narrowing of the bowel. In some cases, it can lead to colon cancer and other intestinal diseases. It is common amongst many ages, and doctors often see it in early teens. When someone has Crohn’s Disease, the microbiota in their gut are unbalanced. One example of the various types of bacteria in the gut is Escherichia Coli (e. Coli). E. Coli is healthy in small amounts in a gut, as it prevents salmonella food poisoning. But during inflammation, the bacteria grows out of order and uncontrollably. The E. Coli grows at more rapid rates than any of the other bacterias in the gut during inflammation.
There currently aren’t any cures for Crohn’s Disease, as there are only medications used to reduce inflammation, and none of these drugs work for all patients. One aid to reducing the effects of Crohn’s Disease is Biologics, but these antibodies have negative side effects. Corticosteroids like Prednisone can reduce inflammation, but they aren’t effective in all cases and don’t eliminate sufficient amounts of bacteria; they also have horrible side effects. Immune system suppressors such as Methotrexate and Azathioprine can work to an extent for some patients, but they can have negative side effects as well. There is a common denominator among these drugs, which is that none are able to fit all patients’ needs and all have harmful side effects. One potential cure for Colitis is creating a drug that can edit the gut’s microbiota.
The Assistant Professor of Microbiology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and one of the scientists at the Winter Laboratory, Dr. Sebastian Winter, described what he is working on in hopes of lowering the amount of bacteria in the gut. He is trying to make a drug that can adjust the bacteria and level out the amounts of microbiota in the intestine during inflammation. They have been testing on mouse models of Colitis with a heavy metal called tungsten, but they want to find a new drug so they won’t have to use heavy metals. Heavy metals can be dangerous when consumed, because they can potentially lead to reproductive and neurological issues. The microbiota vacuumed up the tungsten and used it as an energy source, fueling the growth of bacteria. Tungstate salt and water helped to clear out the E. Coli in some situations, but not all, and the tungsten salt was unable to prevent the growth of the other forms of bacteria. One of the other doctors, Dr. Wenhan Zhu said that “The overall idea is that the tungsten threw a wrench into the way E. Coli produce energy, slowing the growth of the pathogenic bacteria during flares of inflammation.”
There are many challenges with creating the target drug, as there are so many types of microbiota, so it will be hard to create a drug that will be able to target all of the bacteria, and ensuring that they aren’t taking out all of the E. Coli, which wouldn’t be ideal either. The laboratory is in the process of trying to find a broad-spectrum antibiotic, Dr. Winter describes, “The effects of broad-spectrum antibiotics on the microbiota are devastating. It’s like using a torch in a flower bed and hoping that once you kill the weeds, the flowers will flourish.” Creating such medicines is going to be very difficult, but with modern technology and deeper knowledge of Crohn’s Disease and Colitis, doctors are getting closer to a cure.