University of Wisconsin–Madison

MAP in Crohn’s Disease (again)

A team of 11 Portuguese scientists and one MAP expert from the UK have yet again demonstrated live MAP in the blood of Crohn’s Disease (CD) patients and confirmed the association of MAP and CD. In addition, they showed that MAP was far more common in CD patients than was Escherichia coli bacteria with adherence/invasive ability (AIEC). This type of E. coli has been suggested by some scientists to be a causal agent for CD. This work was published June 7 in the journal Microoganisms.


Pathobionts, particularly Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis (MAP) and Escherichia coli isolates with adherence/invasive ability (AIEC) have been associated with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), particularly Crohn’s disease (CD). This study aimed to evaluate the frequency of viable MAP and AIEC in a cohort of IBD patients. As such, MAP and E. coli cultures were established from faecal and blood samples (with a total n = 62 for each) of patients with CD (n = 18), ulcerative colitis (UC, n = 15), or liver cirrhosis (n = 7), as well as from healthy controls (HC, n = 22). Presumptive positive cultures were tested by polymerase chain reaction (PCR), for a positive confirmation of MAP or E. coli identity. E. coli-confirmed isolates were then tested for AIEC identity using adherence and invasion assays in the epithelial cell line of Caco-2 and survival and replication assays in the macrophage cell line of J774. MAP sub-culture and genome sequencing were also performed. MAP was more frequently cultured from the blood and faecal samples of patients with CD and cirrhosis. E. coli presumptive colonies were isolated from the faecal samples of most individuals, in contrast to what was registered for the blood samples. Additionally, from the confirmed E. coli isolates, only three had an AIEC-like phenotype (i.e., one CD patient and two UC patients). This study confirmed the association between MAP and CD; however, it did not find a strong association between the presence of AIEC and CD. It may be hypothesized that the presence of viable MAP in the bloodstream of CD patients contributes to disease reactivation.


This study adds to the body of literature on the association of MAP and CD and strengthens the argument that MAP is a zoonotic pathogen, i.e., one transmissible from animals to humans. For more about MAP as a zoonotic pathogen and its link to Crohn’s Disease, see this page on our website where a long list of references on the subject is provided, with direct links to the original publications.