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Clin Exp Immunol. 1992 Dec;90(3):503-8.

Antibodies to Mycobacterium paratuberculosis-specific protein antigens in Crohn's disease.

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1
Tuberculosis and Related Infections Unit, Royal Postgraduate Medical School, London, UK.

Abstract

The possible role of infection with Mycobacterium paratuberculosis (MAP) for the etiopathogenesis of Crohn's disease (CD) has been a matter of long-term controversy. In addition to similarities with the pathology of ruminant paratuberculosis, DNA fingerprinting confirmed the organism isolated from gut tissue, but the specificity of the immune repertoire has not as yet been evaluated. We report here on a serological study of 29 patients with CD, 20 patients with ulcerative colitis and 18 healthy control subjects, using three antigens attributed with species-specificity and selective immunogenicity following MAP infection. Antibodies binding to the 38-kD band of MAP extract were demonstrable by the Western blot technique in 57% of CD patients. Antibody levels to the 24-kD (p24BCD) cathodic bands, determined by competition ELISA using a monospecific murine antiserum, and to the 18-kD protease-resistant purified bacterioferritin, detected by standard ELISA, were significantly elevated in 53% of CD patients. However, these three antibody specificities tested in individual CD patients did not show any correlation with each other. Thus, 18% of patients were positive for all three specificities, whilst 84% had antibodies to at least one of the specific antigens. Although the exact proportion of affected patients is yet to be defined, the serological results obtained support the view that MAP infection may play an etiological role in Crohn's disease.

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