veggies.jpg (6769 bytes)fruitbowl.jpg (6391 bytes)Paratuberculosis and Crohn's Disease: Got Milk?
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Paratuberculosis and Crohn's Disease: Got Milk?
by Michael Greger, MD
http://www.veganMD.org
Updated January 2001

Epidemiology

Other potential lines of evidence include population studies. One would expect that if paratuberculosis was causing Crohn's disease, then the regions in which there is a high prevalence of Crohn's should overlap with the regions with a high prevalence of paratuberculosis. While sufficient data is lacking,[161] a review of the epidemiology of Johne's disease compared with the epidemiology of Crohn's disease found just that.[120] "Crohn's disease has a very spotty distribution in the world," notes Dr. Walter Thayer, an expert on the disease at Rhode Island Hospital who worked with Chiodini to culture MAP from Crohn's patients. "But it's seen only in milk-drinking areas -- Australia, southern Africa, Europe, the United States, Canada, New Zealand. Interestingly, it's not seen in India, where they do drink milk, but they boil it first."[19]

Critics point to Sweden, which has its share of Crohn's, but whose cattle are reportedly paratuberculosis free. Unfortunately, the surveillance testing has been limited.[115] Michael Collins, veterinarian and microbiologist with the University of Wisconsin, has written "We believe no region in the world is free of M. paratuberculosis infection in its ruminant livestock. In all likelihood, Johne's disease is to be found in every country. Being free of the disease is probably more a function of how hard one has looked than a true lack of incidence."[35] We will see a prime example of this in the discussion of Ireland.

Another perceived inconsistency in the link between paraTB and Crohn's is the fact that Crohn's is found more often in urban, rather than rural populations.[143] Dairy farmers, for example, do not seem to have higher rates of Crohn's.[82] This is not dissimilar from other parallel diseases like bovine TB -- tuberculosis not paratuberculosis -- which, centuries ago, was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of children who drank unpasteurized milk.7 The association between tuberculosis contracted by drinking milk and the rural community was also weak, presumably because of the commercial marketing and distribution of infected milk.[202]

Any explanation of Crohn's would have to account for the rapid increase seen in this disease this century.[178] The longest continuous study of the incidence of Crohn's disease is from Wales, which reports a 4000% increase of the disease since the 1930s.[140] This may be explained by the concurrent rise in paratuberculosis in intensively farmed dairy herds throughout the century.[66] Thayer asks also "What has happened to dairying in that time? Do you get milk from your local dairy? No. You get it from big conglomerates that buy from local dairies and pool all the milk. I think this is possibly the reason the disease has spread so quickly."[19]

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