Anti-Microbial Antibody Response is Associated With Future Onset of Crohn’s Disease Independent of Biomarkers of Altered Gut Barrier Function, Subclinical Inflammation, and Genetic Risk

Background and Aims

Altered host immune reactivity to microbial antigens is hypothesized to trigger the onset of Crohn’s disease (CD). We aimed to assess whether increased serum anti-microbial antibody response in asymptomatic first-degree relatives (FDRs) of CD patients is an independent risk factor for future CD development.


We measured host serum antibody response to 6 microbial antigens at enrollment (Prometheus enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay test: anti-Saccharomyces cerevisiae antibodies immunoglobulin A/immunoglobulin G, anti-OmpC, anti-A4-Fla2, anti-FlaX, anti-CBir1) and derived the sum of positive antibodies (AS). We used samples at enrollment of prospectively followed healthy FDRs from a nested case-control cohort of the Crohn’s and Colitis Canada Genetics Environment Microbial Project. Those who later developed CD (n = 77) were matched 1:4 by age, sex, follow-up duration, and geographic location with control FDRs remaining healthy (n = 307). To address our research aims, we fitted a multivariable conditional logistic regression model and performed causal mediation analysis.


High baseline AS (≥2) (43% of cases, 11% of controls) was associated with higher risk of developing CD (adjusted odds ratio, 6.5; 95% confidence interval, 3.4–12.7; P < .001). Importantly, this association remained significant when adjusted for markers of gut barrier function, fecal calprotectin, C-reactive protein, and CD-polygenic risk score, and in subjects recruited more than 3 years before diagnosis. Causal mediation analysis showed that the effect of high AS on future CD development is partially mediated (42%) via preclinical gut inflammation.


Our results suggest that increased anti-microbial antibody responses are associated with risk of future development of CD, independent of biomarkers of abnormal gut barrier function, subclinical inflammation, and CD-related genetic risks. This suggests that anti-microbial antibody responses are an early predisease event in the development of CD.

Lead Researchers

Link to Publication


  1. David Mack

    Senior Scientist, CHEO Research Institute

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