Background: The efficacy and mechanisms of acupuncture for Crohn’s disease are not well understood. We investigated its effects on symptoms, intestinal microbiota, and circulating inflammatory markers in Crohn’s disease patients.
Methods: This 48-week, randomized, sham controlled, parallel-group clinical trial was performed at a tertiary outpatient clinic in China. From April 2015 to November 2019, 66 patients (mean age 40·4, 62·1% were male, all were Han Chinese) with mild to moderate active Crohn’s disease and unresponsive to drug treatment were enrolled and randomly assigned equally to an acupuncture group or a sham group. The treatment group received 3 sessions of acupuncture plus moxibustion per week for 12 weeks and a follow-up of 36 weeks.
Findings: At week 12, the clinical remission rate (the primary outcome) and clinical response rate of acupuncture group were significantly higher than that of sham group, with a difference of 42·4% (95% CI: 20·1%-64·0%) and 45·5% (95% CI: 24·0%-66·9%), respectively, both of which maintained at week 48. The acupuncture group had significantly lower Crohn’s disease activity index and C-reactive protein level at week 12, which maintained at 36-week follow-up.
The Crohn’s disease endoscopic index of severity, histopathological score, and recurrence rate at week 48 were significantly lower in acupuncture group. The number of operational taxonomic unit of intestinal microbiota and relative abundance of Faecalibacterium prausnitzii and Roseburia faecis were increased. Plasma diamine oxidase, lipopolysaccharide, and Th1/Th17 related cytokines were decreased in 12-week after acupuncture.
Interpretation: Acupuncture was effective in inducing and maintaining remission in patients with active Crohn’s disease, which was associated with increased abundance of intestinal anti-inflammatory bacteria, enhanced intestinal barrier, and regulation of circulating Th1/Th17-related cytokines.