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Paratuberculosis and Crohn's Disease: Got Milk?
by Michael Greger, MD
Updated January 2001

H. pylori

Most ulcers are caused by the immune system attacking the lining of the stomach. Doctors blamed stress, thinking this led to too much stomach acid and the excess acid caused irritation which maybe triggered the attack. It was treated the same way as Crohn's has been treated: symptomatic relief of the inflammation and surgery. Then two Australian researchers cultured a tiny bacterium from the lining of the stomach and hypothesized heresy -- that ulcers were actually caused by an infection.[99]

For almost a decade the researchers' ideas were dismissed and ridiculed.[39] The medical community scoffed at the notion that bacteria could survive in stomach acid.[107] One of the Australian researchers was so desperate that he actually drank a vial of the bacteria to prove his point.[99] What finally convinced the medical community, though, was that ulcers disappeared when patients were treated with the right antibiotics.[64] This discovery revolutionized thinking in medicine. The ulcer-causing bacteria, H. pylori, is now known as the cause of most ulcers in the world.[90]

Many scientists see a close parallel between the H. pylori story and paraTB. Just as H. pylori bacteria were the real reason the body was attacking the stomach lining in ulcers, researchers think that the MAP bacteria are the reason the body is attacking the intestinal lining in Crohn's. The proposition that ulcers were an infectious disease was met by nearly universal skepticism in the medical community.[107] As Dr. Hermon-Taylor, Chairman of the Department of Surgery at St. George's Medical School in London and leading proponent of the paraTB-Crohn's link, has noted, "And this [H. pylori] was a bug that you could see by looking down the microscope, grow in a simple culture system in the lab, test for immunologically pretty simply, and ordinary tablets readily available to doctors could make it go away. And it still took eight years for the penny to drop. Now we've got a bug [MAP] that you can't see, can't grow, hides under the immunological radar, is a bastard to kill, and the problem it's causing is far, far greater. If Rod Chiodini and I are wrong, the magnitude of the problem will only be the economic losses of farm animals, which is costing the United States somewhere between $1.5 and $2 billion a year. If Rod Chiodini and I are right, then, oh dear, oh dear. We have a big problem. It's going to take a lot to put it right."[19]

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