The British Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries is investigating whether milk harbouring Mycobacterium paratuberculosis could cause Crohn's disease.
When a ministry survey in Northern Ireland found that six out of 31 pasteurised milk samples contained the micro organism, a £200,000 study into the quality of milk was launched. And although the ministry says there is no sign of a public health risk, fears of the link between Crohn's disease and M paratuberculosis have prompted them to research this aspect, too.
Resarchers remain divided over a possible association with M tuberculosis, which can cause an illness similar to Crohn's in cattle. A recent study found the microorganism to be present in 65 per cent of a sample group of Crohn's disease patients (BMJ, 1998; 317: 491).