Dr. Christine Soong, Medical Director of Quality and Safety at Sinai Health and Agnes Tong, Senior Manager of Quality and Patient Safety at Sinai Health

According to a new study, researchers have discovered a combination of gut bacteria in people who develop Crohn’s disease, years before they are diagnosed with the illness. This medical discovery comes from the Genetic, Environmental, Microbial (GEM) project, based at Mount Sinai Hospital.

The GEM project is an international research study dedicated to investigating and identifying potential triggers of Crohn’s disease. By analyzing this gut bacteria, doctors are a step closer in understanding who is prone to the inflammatory bowel disease, discovery that researchers are calling a breakthrough.

“We’re starting to see the pattern of bacteria that may be triggering Crohn’s disease, moving us closer to better treatments for those with the disease or even preventing it for those at risk,” said Dr. Ken Croitoru, a gastroenterologist at Mount Sinai and lead investigator on the GEM project.

For this study, researchers compared the gut bacteria of healthy family members of people who have Crohn’s disease and analyzed the differences. They found that the gut bacteria combination of those with the disease is different from those who remain healthy, even years before they develop Crohn’s.

What makes this discovery so significant according to Dr. Croitoru, is that it paves the way to investigating different methods to prevent Crohn’s disease before symptoms arise and could help with developing new treatments. “I’m hopeful that within five years, patients will benefit through evidence-based treatments focused on the gut bacteria or diet modification,” said Dr. Croitoru.

Since its founding in 2008, the GEM project has kept track of 5,000 healthy relatives of people with Crohn’s disease globally. It is supported by Crohn’s and Colitis Canada and The Helmsley Charitable Trust. For more information and details, click on the video below to watch Dr. Croitoru’s recent interview with CTV News.