Mycobacteria and inflammatory bowel disease. Results of culture

Gastroenterology. 1987 Feb;92(2):436-42. doi: 10.1016/0016-5085(87)90139-9.


We have been able to isolate mycobacteria from intestinal specimens obtained by surgical resection or endoscopic biopsy from patients with Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, and noninflammatory bowel diseases. Nineteen slow-growing (Runyon groups I and III) and 17 rapid-growing (Runyon group IV) mycobacterial isolates were obtained. Slow-growing mycobacteria were recovered from approximately one-third of intestinal biopsy specimens from Crohn's disease, one-quarter of ulcerative colitis biopsies, and 40% of biopsies from noninflammatory bowel disease patients. Isolates were most commonly members of the Mycobacterium avium-complex. One isolate (from an ulcerative colitis patient) was biochemically similar to the Mycobacterium strain previously associated with Crohn's disease, and one from a Crohn's disease patient was Mycobacterium kansasii. The rapid-growing organisms were members of the Mycobacterium fortuitum-complex. In addition to conventional mycobacteria, spheroplasts (cell wall-defective forms) were isolated from 12 patients with Crohn's disease (most often from surgically resected colon) and 3 patients with ulcerative colitis; none were isolated from non-inflammatory bowel disease patients. We have been unable to identify a consistent relationship between the presence, or the species, of Mycobacterium and Crohn's disease. Our results do not support the proposed role of a specific mycobacterium in the pathogenesis of Crohn's disease. The cause of Crohn's disease remains unclear.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Colitis, Ulcerative / etiology*
  • Crohn Disease / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Mycobacterium / isolation & purification*
  • Mycobacterium Infections / diagnosis*
  • Mycobacterium Infections, Nontuberculous / diagnosis*
  • Nontuberculous Mycobacteria / isolation & purification*
  • Paratuberculosis / microbiology