Today is World Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) Day; IBD is a set of chronic disorders of unknown cause affecting the gastrointestinal system in over 50 million people. The most common forms are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. This year we will be focusing on the latter.
Ulcerative Colitis (UC) affects colon with variable extension from rectum to the whole colon, and causes inflammation of its superficial layers (mucusal layer). The most common symptoms are bloody diarrhoea accompanied by abdominal pain. Other symptoms include: urgency to defecate, incontinence, fatigue and anaemia. The disease may have also extraintestinal manifestation affecting the skin, eyes or joints. In the most severe cases, toxic megacolon occurs, where the colon wall dilates and thins, which can lead to intestinal perforation and peritonitis.
UC appears due to an immunological reaction to components of the microbiota in persons with a genetic predisposition triggered by environmental stimuli. Some studies have observed that tobacco has a protective effect against its development.
Diagnosis is in many cases delayed: it is estimated that up to 45% of patients suffered from symptoms over a year when the diagnosis is established, while 17% wait over five years. Moreover, current treatments are not a cure, they simply alleviate the symptoms and extend periods of remission.
Specialists, such as Dr Julià Panés, head of the Inflammatory Bowel Disease team at Hospital Clínic–IDIBAPS, state “we need specific IBD markers for diagnosis in the early stages of both the disease and flare-ups” in order to improve the effectiveness of treatment options.
New Non-Invasive Diagnostic Test
Along these lines, the public-private research being carried out in Catalonia is opening doors. GoodGut, for example, is developing a non-invasive test that is currently in the clinical trial phase with patients at the Hospital Universitari Josep Trueta de Girona. It is called RAID-CD and is based on identifying biomarkers in faeces, which will allow early detection of the disease and flare-ups to be predicted. It is designed to optimize therapies by early interventions and reduce the need of surgical operations.