The cause of the small-intestinal inflammation called Crohn's disease is a mystery. Researchers in France now hypothesize that the widespread use of refrigeration has permitted certain bacteria to linger longer than other microbes do in food. The hardy bacteria could then cause low-grade infections in the digestive tracks of susceptible people.
Crohn's disease was first diagnosed in 1935. Since genetic mutations linked to the condition crop up in only about 15 percent of patients (SN: 5/26/01, p. 327: Available to subscribers at Genetic flaw found in painful gut disease), many scientists suspect that environmental factors play a part.