New research suggests more sensitive approaches to detect and monitor inflammatory bowel disease

May 15, 2017 by Jamie Brown
Credit: University of Manchester

A University of Manchester test on the mucus lining of the intestine, performed in mice, has found changes in bacteria that could lead to inflammatory bowel disease 12 weeks earlier than previously possible through looking at stool samples, leading to the possibility of earlier diagnosis and better management of the disease in humans.

Inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn's Disease and are chronic conditions that can cause severe pain, weight loss and diarrhoea and affect more than 250,000 people in the UK.

Diagnosis is often only made once the patient has symptoms and it has been shown that once they are ill they often have changed in their stools but it has never been clear whether bacterial changes cause the or happen as a result of inflammation.

However, the bacteria commonly found in stool samples have a different profile to those found in the mucus lining which protects the intestinal tissue. It is this mucus layer that the University researchers tested.

Dr Sheena Cruickshank, who led the research, said: "Stool samples do not fully replicate the complex picture of the microbiota in the gut which lives in communities in discrete locations within the gut. We took samples which are found right next to the cells of the gut and therefore closer to where the problems develop. As a result we could see changes in the microbiota twelve weeks before they were detectable in the ."

The causes of these diseases are complex and not fully understood, but are believed to be a combination of genetics, lifestyle and environmental factors, and changes in the response to the bacteria in the gut.

These changes can result in thinning of the and bacteria gaining access to the epithelium – cells that line the gut – triggering the immune system and causing inflammation.

As a result, studying the bacteria at earlier stages of the illness could provide greater insight into how the balance of bacteria in the gut is disturbed, which bacteria cause inflammation, and even potentially advancing treatment or screening options.

Dr Cruickshank added: "The bacteria in the gut usually live in a carefully balanced system and this is incredibly useful for digestion and keeping us healthy. However for some reason, this balance can be disturbed.

"Being able to observe what is upsetting this balance earlier and understanding the bacteria involved will give us much greater opportunities to understand the causes of some of these painful diseases and better help patients."

Explore further: Newly discovered bacteria-binding protein in the intestine

More information: Maria Glymenaki et al. Compositional Changes in the Gut Mucus Microbiota Precede the Onset of Colitis-Induced Inflammation, Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (2017). DOI: 10.1097/MIB.0000000000001118

Related Stories

Newly discovered bacteria-binding protein in the intestine

December 8, 2016

Deficiency in a certain protein in the gastrointestinal tract has been shown to lead to both inflammation and abdominal fat accumulation in mice. The discovery provides yet another piece of the puzzle of how humans are affected—or ...

Researchers reveal role of gene in IBD

April 26, 2017

Inside a healthy gut, bacteria and immune cells maintain a delicate balance. If that balance is disturbed, a condition called inflammatory bowel disease or IBD can result. Patients with IBD can experience diarrhea, abdominal ...

Recommended for you

Bioelectricity new weapon to fight dangerous infection

May 26, 2017

Changing the natural electrical signaling that exists in cells outside the nervous system can improve resistance to life-threatening bacterial infections, according to new research from Tufts University biologists. The researchers ...

New hair growth mechanism discovered

May 25, 2017

In experiments in mice, UC San Francisco researchers have discovered that regulatory T cells (Tregs; pronounced "tee-regs"), a type of immune cell generally associated with controlling inflammation, directly trigger stem ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.