Ulcerative colitis as a polymicrobial infection characterized by sustained broken mucus barrier

World J Gastroenterol. 2014 Jul 28;20(28):9468-75. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v20.i28.9468.


To reduce medication for patients with ulcerative colitis (UC), we need to establish the etiology of UC. The intestinal microbiota of patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) has been shown to differ from that of healthy controls and abundant data indicate that it changes in both composition and localization. Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth is significantly higher in IBD patients compared with controls. Probiotics have been investigated for their capacity to reduce the severity of UC. The luminal surfaces of the gastrointestinal tract are covered by a mucus layer. This normally acts as a barrier that does not allow bacteria to reach the epithelial cells and thus limits the direct contact between the host and the bacteria. The mucus layer in the colon comprises an inner layer that is firmly adherent to the intestinal mucosa, and an outer layer that can be washed off with minimal rinsing. Some bacteria can dissolve the protective inner mucus layer. Defects in renewal and formation of the inner mucus layer allow bacteria to reach the epithelium and have implications for the causes of colitis. In this review, important elements of UC pathology are thought to be the intestinal bacteria, gut mucus, and the mucosa-associated immune system.

Keywords: Bacteria; Etiology; Infection; Mucus; Ulcerative colitis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / diagnosis
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / microbiology*
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / therapy
  • Colon / drug effects
  • Colon / microbiology*
  • Colon / pathology
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Mucosa / drug effects
  • Intestinal Mucosa / microbiology*
  • Intestinal Mucosa / pathology
  • Microbiota
  • Mucus / microbiology*
  • Probiotics / therapeutic use
  • Risk Factors
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents