Most people know of someone with Crohn's disease symptoms. The principal manifestation is chronic inflammation of the intestine (colitis or IBD) with stomach pain and diarrhoea. Crohn's Disease (CD) affects your whole life, and that of your family. It is a 'new' disease which emerged in the mid 1940s and has now become common. There are probably more than 180,000 people suffering from it in Britain, rising at the rate of about 5,000 per year. In Europe CD is rising at about 25% per decade. In children the rate of increase is much higher.
Some Crohn's advice can be found on the Action Medical Research website.
What causes Crohn's disease?
The causation of Crohn's Disease has not been fully understood, nor recognised. As a consequence, conventional research and treatment are directed almost exclusively at suppressing the inflammation. This may help in the short term, but the disease almost invariably comes back. Most people with CD eventually have surgery, sometimes on more than one occasion. Epidemiological research has shown that the long term prospects for people with Crohns Disease have not improved significantly in 35 years.
Progress so far
Research we began and have continued since 1985, and which is now increasingly being taken up and confirmed by other research laboratories, shows that Crohn's Disease is largely caused by a bug called MAP (short for Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis). The reliable scientific evidence for this has grown very strong.
• MAP infection is widespread in the animal world.
• MAP is being transmitted to humans in milk and from exposure to environmental sources like contaminated waters.
• MAP in people is difficult to detect. The tests have to be done just right. When they are, almost everyone with Chrons Disease is found to be infected with MAP.
• MAP is what is called in microbiology a multi-host pathogen with the proven scientific ability to cause chronic inflammation of the intestine in many animals including primates. MAP is doing the same thing to people.
MAP infections are difficult to eradicate. They are resistant to most antibiotics and drugs used to treat TB. In 1992, Prof Hermon-Taylor introduced a new treatment for Chron's Disease using a combination of two recently available drugs more active against MAP, called rifabutin and clarithromycin. They work in over 50% of people with active CD who can take them. Relapses sometimes occur. New anti-MAP treatments such as modern therapeutic vaccines are needed. Conventional vaccines make antibodies to prevent disease. They could not work in CD as the MAP bugs are already there inside cells. Modern vaccines make armies of hunter-killer cells which patrol the body getting rid of infected cells. So modern vaccines can be used to treat diseases caused by chronic infections.
A Crohn's cure?
Prof Hermon-Taylor and his team began seeking funding in 2001. Since then they have received and committed over £1.5 million. With this they have designed and delivered a state-of-the-art modern anti-MAP vaccine. It consists of a critically important cassette of MAP DNA in two harmless carrier viruses called Ad5 and MVA. These carriers are already working in approved clinical trials with other modern vaccines. In the Crohn's Disease vaccination treatment procedure, the Ad5 is given first and the MVA boost 6 weeks later. In multiple tests over the last two years, the Crohn's vaccine has consistently proved to be effective both in treating existing MAP infection and protecting against subsequent MAP infection, without any side effects.
What is still needed?
We have come a long way and are nearly there. The Crohn's treatment will move to clinical trials and market development over the next 3 years. Over this period there is an absolute scientific requirement to develop new quantitative tests for MAP in humans, new immunological tests for MAP in humans, and tests for the specific immune responses of people to the vaccine. Together these tests will establish proof of concept that anti-MAP vaccination can make people with Crohn's disease better, and it does so by depleting or eradicating the MAP infection. This final essential piece of scientific research will require £550,000.
Please contact Professor Hermon-Taylor directly for more information, using the contact details at the top of the page.