Lysozyme is an enzyme that catalyzes the hydrolysis of specific glycosidic bonds in mucopolysaccharides that constitute the cell wall of gram-positive bacteria. Lysozyme is an antibacterial defense present in the G.I. tract and is secreted by granulocytes, macrophages, Paneth cells, and Brunner's Glands as well as normal colonic crypt cells. The main source for fecal lysozyme is the intestinal granulocytes.
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Moderate elevations in fecal lysozyme are commonly associated with significant overgrowth of enteropathogens such as yeast or dysbiotic bacteria. Markedly elevated levels of fecal lysozyme have been identified in colonic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), such as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis as well as other non-IBD G.I. diseases with diarrhea, compared to healthy controls.
In Crohn's disease, excess lysozyme may be a result of active secretions of macrophages in the lamina propria, and monocytic cells in the granulomas (sites of G.I. inflammation). In ulcerative colitis, it has been postulated that elevations in fecal lysozyme may be secondary to intestinal loss of granulocytes and their secretory granules]. Additionally, Paneth cell metaplasia, a phenomenon that occurs with various inflammatory conditions of the large intestine, may be a minor contributor to fecal lysozyme elevations. Paneth cells are part of the intestinal epithelial lining found in the deepest part of intestinal cryptwhich are the crypts of Lieberkohn. Paneth cells contain lysozyme in their secretory granules, and combined with their phagocytic capability, help to regulate intestinal microbial flora.
Lysozyme is helpful in the determination of colonic inflammatory activity rather than small bowel disease. Slightly elevated levels of lysozyme may be treated with anti-inflammatory agents or by removing the antagonist, such as enteroinvasive microorganisms or allergens. Moderate to high levels of lysozyme (>2,000) may indicate an active inflammatory bowel condition which often requires further testing such as colonoscopy. To rule out IBD, check fecal lactoferrin levels (elevated with IBD).