Two broad hypotheses have arisen regarding the fundamental nature of the pathogenesis of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs, which include ulcerative colitis and Crohn disease). The first contends that primary dysregulation of the mucosal immune system leads to excessive immunologic responses to normal microflora. The second suggests that changes in the composition of gut microflora and/or deranged epithelial barrier function elicits pathologic responses from the normal mucosal immune system. Here we examine these hypotheses and conclude that IBD is indeed characterized by an abnormal mucosal immune response but that microbial factors and epithelial cell abnormalities can facilitate this response.
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