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Scand J Gastroenterol. 2008;43(2):234-41.

Concept of Crohn's disease being conditioned by four main components, and irritable bowel syndrome being an incomplete Crohn's disease.

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Department of Gastrosurgical Research, Sahlgrenska University Hospital, Gothenburg, Sweden.


Several mechanisms have been proposed for the development of Crohn's disease. Evidence in favour of a unifying 4-component concept to explain the development of Crohn's disease is presented. The four components are a genetic predisposition to an increased intestinal permeability, the key and initial triggering factor being an oral-pharyngeal bacterium that increases the mucosal permeability of the small intestine with only a minimal inflammatory reaction, an adherent-invasive strain of Escherichia coli that penetrates the mucosa and causes an acute inflammatory reaction in the intestinal wall, and finally a secondary invasion of bacteria causing the chronic inflammatory characteristics. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a functional bowel disorder with intermittent symptoms of varying intensity. Clinically, there is evidence to suggest a link between IBS patients with diarrhoea and patients with Crohn's disease. The common denominator and initial trigger for IBS with diarrhoea and Crohn's disease seems to be an increased small intestinal permeability, probably caused by an oral-pharyngeal bacterial strain. The important missing factor in IBS patients seems to be the adherent-invasive strain of E. coli in the proximal colon, causing the acute inflammatory process in patients with Crohn's disease. IBS with diarrhoea can then be looked upon as an incomplete Crohn's disease.

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