Do Antibiotics Treat Crohn's Disease?

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Ask the experts

Can Crohn's disease sometimes be treated with antibiotics?

Doctor's response:

Yes, patients with Crohn's disease are treated with antibiotics. Only a small percentage of patients seem to benefit, however. Moreover, it is not clear if the antibiotics are working through an immune-suppressing or an anti-bacterial mechanism. (Some antibiotics are mild immune suppressants and have antiinflammation properties.) There is also the confounding roles of extra-intestinal infections (infections outside of the intestines) and bacterial overgrowth within the intestine, both of which would respond to antibiotics.

There is a continuing push of mainstream research on inflammatory bowel disease (IBD, including Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis) into the role of intestinal bacteria in the initiation and perpetuation of IBD. It's interesting research and could be important.

Jay W. Marks, M.D.
Medical and Pharmacy Editor,

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Reviewed on 1/11/2018