Vegan Health ArticlesParatuberculosis and Crohn's Disease: Got Milk? Live Cultures
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From Michael Greger, MD
Updated January 2001

The next hurdle was the difficulty of consistently culturing the bug from Crohn's sufferers' intestines.[27] Although MAP has been independently isolated across three continents -- cultured from Crohn's tissue in California, Texas, France, Australia, England, the Netherlands, and the Czech republic[27] -- results are still relatively sparse and many labs have reported not being able to culture it at all.[115] This is not surprising.[24]

In order to isolate a specific bug from the multitude that exist naturally in the intestine, one has to devise a decontamination technique that kills other bacteria without harming the target bacterium, in this case MAP. Without their protective cell walls, however, cell wall deficient forms are almost impossible to culture because of the caustic processing techniques required to isolate them.[22]

Even once isolated, MAP is very difficult to grow.[68] Researchers have been trying since 1952 to grow mycobacteria from surgically removed Crohn's disease tissue.[46] It is thought that Chiodini succeeded where others had failed because of his many years of experience, combined with access to modern culture techniques and years of patient work.[126] Some human isolates took up to six years to grow, even under extremely precise culture and decontamination conditions.66 Earlier researchers failed to meet these stringent standards for culturing the bacteria.[83]

Even modern labs have been found to be relying on faulty study design.[66] Moreover, the differences in methods used between labs can be vast.[24] Some labs still use fixed or frozen specimens or use only surface tissues from superficial biopsies, when it's been shown that one should optimally use fresh[66] resected tissue, as MAP tends to be found deep in the intestinal wall.[166] Some labs working with nonspheroplast forms of MAP from cattle haven't even been able to grow it. Even under the best circumstances, MAP is a tough bug to grow.[67]

To this day, many infectious agents have eluded our attempts to grow them in labs at all. For example, scientists have never been able to isolate Mycobacterium leprae, the microbe responsible for leprosy. Even Campylobacter, which we now know as the most significant bacteria in food poisoning, wasn't identified as a human pathogen until the 1970s, when culturing techniques enabling isolation were finally developed.[101]

Complicating attempts to culture the bug in Crohn's, there seem to be very few MAP actually involved in the disease process. This has a parallel in other animals -- MAP bacteria in sheep and goat paratuberculosis are often sparse or even undetectable[147] -- and in other mycobacterial human diseases like a type of leprosy in which just a few mycobacteria are capable of triggering a pathological immune response.[67]

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We began this archive as a means of assisting our visitors in answering many of their health and diet questions, and in encouraging them to take a pro-active part in their own health. We believe the articles and information contained herein are true, but are not presenting them as advice. We, personally, have found that a whole food vegan diet has helped our own health, and simply wish to share with others the things we have found. Each of us must make our own decisions, for it's our own body. If you have a health problem, see your own physician.