Getting to the Guts of the matter!
New research is particularly important to Canterbury and better tools for diagnosis are urgently required. The Gut Foundation (previously the Bowel and Liver Trust), is aiming to provide support to Teagan Hoskin, a Post Doctoral Fellow at the University of Otago, Christchurch.
Teagan has extensive experience working in the field of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) research, having previously coordinated a large study which recruited 500 patients. Her passion for improving health outcomes for people living with IBD stems from witnessing her younger brother’s struggle with this debilitating disease for more than 20 years.
The Gut Foundation has a long-standing interest in supporting research in the field of IBD, previously funding projects assessing IBD incidence rates in Canterbury. A study funded by the trust in 2004 showed that Canterbury has one of the highest incidence rates of Crohn’s Disease (CD) worldwide. Strikingly, a more recently funded study in 2014 indicated that the number of patients diagnosed with CD had increased by 50 percent. This highlights the importance of continued research in this field and underpins our ongoing commitment to support this vital work.
Currently, colonoscopy with biopsy is thought to be the best method for evaluating inflammation location, extent and severity. However, the invasiveness of endoscopic examinations and unpleasant bowel preparation treatments is a strong drawback for this procedure, especially in children. Encouragingly, a growing body of evidence suggests that non-invasive markers measured in the urine and plasma may be specific in detecting gut inflammation in patients with IBD.
The potential of non-invasive markers to identify patients with IBD, monitor their treatment outcomes and assess their risk of relapse is appealing. Gastroenterologists would be able to diagnose IBD much faster by eliminating colonoscopy wait times. In addition, they would be able to individualise treatment by prescribing more powerful drugs to patients at risk of relapse, while patients at reduced risk would avoid these more powerful drugs.
The overall objective of this project is to determine whether levels of novel markers of inflammation measured in the blood and urine will correlate with disease severity in patients with IBD. Several studies have assessed the ability of fecal calprotectin to reflect disease severity in patients with IBD. However, this marker is not sensitive or specific enough to eliminate the need for invasive endoscopic examinations. Consequently, the proposed research is vital to enabling identification of novel markers of inflammation that better reflect disease severity and limit the need for colonoscopy.
The proposed research represents an exciting opportunity for an experienced researcher. Identification and validation of non-invasive markers that have the ability to reflect disease severity has the potential to aid in the diagnosis and assessment of IBD. If validated, non-invasive inflammatory markers could reduce the need for invasive investigations. This would be particularly beneficial for children, who often have to undergo several unpleasant procedures before obtaining an accurate IBD diagnosis.
With a delay in diagnosis and appropriate treatment often resulting in poor physical and mental wellbeing and limiting educational progress, better tools for the ongoing assessment and diagnosis of gut inflammation would lead directly to improved outcomes for those with IBD.
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