MAP & Crohn's Disease research

OVERVIEW: MAP and Crohn's Disease Research


A  limited summary of historical and current research -- including forthcoming research from the National Institutes of Health of the United States -- into an infectious cause of Crohn's disease is presented below.  It should be noted that there is considerable overlapping subject matter in terms of research.  Therefore, we would urge you to visit the  Treatment & Diagnosis , MAP in Food and MAP in the Environment sections of this website for detailed information about those areas. 

Early Research

In the early 1900's, the disease we call today "Crohn's disease" was characterized as an infectious disease, specifically intestinal tuberculosis. However, by the early 1930's, definitive classification (proof) that this disease was infectious was not forthcoming. More specifically, when Dr. Burrill B. Crohn failed to prove an infectious cause in 1932, the disease became formally known as "Crohn's disease" (named after Dr. Crohn) and the search for an infectious cause was largely discontinued.

As a result, Crohn's disease research has for many years been almost exclusively concentrated in "immunology" - and finding ways to "calm the overactive immune system" in Crohn's patients - immune systems which were overactive due to "no known cause."

Research Beginning in the 1980's

Nevertheless, beginning in the 1980's, a small core of highly regarded and dedicated researchers in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and other countries valiantly began again - in the face of contrary opinion in the medical community, and despite low-level to nonexistent funding - the search for an infectious cause for Crohn's disease.

Over the intervening years this small core of researchers has slowly grown, and despite all obstacles has continued to painstakingly and relentlessly amass scientific evidence that suggests an etiological connection between Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis (MAP), and Crohn's disease.

On behalf of Crohn's patients everywhere, PARA highly commends and offers a heartfelt "Thank You" to the dedicated researchers who, in the 1980's, valiantly began again, and have henceforth, with slowly growing ranks, relentlessly continued the search for an infectious cause of Crohn's disease.

Note: Today many of these researchers sit on PARA's Medical and Scientific Advisory Councils.  Much of the work of these highly regarded researchers is summarized in the section of our home page entitled "Why is PARA Concerned?"


Current Research - National Institutes of Health (NIH)

On December 14 1998, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) hosted a workshop entitled "Crohn's Disease:- Is there a microbial etiology? Recommendations for a research agenda." The workshop brought together researchers from multiple disciplines, including, but not limited to, mycobacteriology, molecular biology, immunology, gastroenterology, and veterinary medicine, etc., to discuss a potential infectious cause for Crohn's disease.

As the culmination of workshop deliberations and on-going NIAID research and efforts, in May 1999, the NIAID published a highly significant historical document - a comprehensive document setting forth an entirely new research agenda to place the search for an infectious cause for Crohn's disease at the forefront of Crohn's research, and to set forth the critical and rigorous research necessary to determine the relationship between Crohn's disease and microbial infection, in particular infection with the bacterium Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis (MAP).

The NIAID's historic "Research Recommendations" document has been reproduced in its entirety on this web site. Please read it on the page entitled NIAID Research Agenda.

In mid 2002 NIAID funded the first significant research in the United States, targeting MAP as a cause of Crohn's disease.  At this same time National Institute of Diabetes Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) also stepped to the plate to fund Crohn's disease/MAP research.  For further information on NIH efforts, visit PARA's Report - "PARA's Efforts Benefits Crohn's Sufferers."

PARA commends the NIH for significant efforts to determine the cause of Crohn's disease.

Current Research - Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

Subsequent to the publishing of the NIAID "Research Recommendations" in May of 1999, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) requested a meeting with PARA in November of 1999, where a meeting took place at its headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia to discuss potential courses of action being considered by the CDC.

In May of 2000, CDC issued its Potential Infectious Causes of Crohn's Disease Working Document.  Recognizing the potential public health impact of an infectious cause of Crohn's disease, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has designated Infectious Causes of Chronic Diseases as a target area within its prevention plan:  "Preventing Emerging Infectious Diseases:  A Strategy for the 21st Century."

For further information about CDC's involvement in the MAP issue, visit the section entitled "Centers for Disease Control."

Current Research - European Commission (EC)

The European Directorate General of Health and Consumer Protection (DG24) has published a 76-page report requesting an "urgent research program" to deal with the connection between the bacterium MAP and Crohn's disease, and to deal with the transmission of MAP to the human population through the food chain.

Stating that:  "There are sufficient grounds for concern to warrant increased and urgent research activity to resolve the issue", the Commission goes on to recommend a wide range of research that should be conducted as a matter of urgency.

For further information about the European Commission's involvement in the MAP issue, visit the section entitled "European Commission."

Current Research - International Association for Paratuberculosis (IAP)

The International Association for Paratuberculosis, Inc. is a nonprofit, charitable, scientific organization devoted to the advancement of scientific progress on MAP,  related mycobacteria and related diseases. 

Please visit the dedicated IAP webpage as well as the IAP's website to learn more about MAP research worldwide and to obtain information about members of the International Association for Paratuberculosis. 

For a comprehensive listing of MAP Research Abstracts and Full-Text Articles, please visit the Scientific Articles area of our website.

Source:   Contact PARA:
Paratuberculosis Awareness & Research Association, 1999-2003.