Crohn’s might one day be treated with a vaccine.
To people living with Crohn’s disease, it may sound too good to be true: a vaccine that doesn’t just treat their illness, but cures it. Yet Jonathan Hermon-Taylor, a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons and a professor of surgery at King’s College, London, is cautiously optimistic about offering exactly that to patients in a few years.
Crohn’s is a complex and chronic inflammatory bowel disease that affects the entire digestive tract. Medications address painful symptoms, like intestinal ulcers and inflammation. Other therapies can put the disease into remission. If Dr. Hermon-Taylor’s research is successful, a simple — and cost-effective — cure may be on the horizon.
The retired physician and molecular scientist has devoted a great deal of his career to studying the microbiology of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). After decades of research, he has concluded that Crohn’s may be caused by a single bacterium — Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis, or MAP, which he reported on in a review published July 2009 in the journal Gut Pathogens.
Unlike most vaccines, what Hermon-Taylor has developed is designed to be both preventive and therapeutic. His vaccine targets MAP by training the immune system to destroy it. This will not only keep healthy people from developing Crohn’s, but also give relief to Crohn’s patients. According to his theory, once the body is free of this bacterium, it will no longer produce the inflammatory response that causes so much pain for those with Crohn’s.
The vaccine has already been through one round of clinical testing, conducted through Oxford University in the UK. That trial found the vaccine safe for healthy human volunteers. A new trial, which began in March 2018, will determine if the injection is safe for Crohn’s patients. Hermon-Taylor will also be collecting data on its clinical benefits, but full tests for efficacy will only proceed if this safety trial is successful.
|Read on: A Cure for Crohn’s Disease — How Hopeful Should We Be? | Everyday Health|