JUL 03, 2019 9:30 AM PDT

Noninvasive New Test Can Diagnose Bowel Disease

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Our gut is very important to our health. It hosts a vast community of microbes that influence digestion, the immune system, and the development of many diseases, some of which are becoming more common. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is one of those disorders. In 2015, three million people in the US and 250,000 people in Britain were diagnosed with IBD. Now researchers have created a diagnostic tool that can easily and non-invasively assess gut function. The work has been reported in Experimental Physiology.

IBD is a broad term that describes chronic gut inflammation and includes several conditions, including Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. Symptoms include serious abdominal discomfort, diarrhea, reduced appetite, and fatigue. It is often diagnosed using procedures like colonoscopies or endoscopies that enable clinicians to examine the intestinal tract visually.

The intestinal tract has a very special lining, which has to be able to both soak up the nutrients we need from the food we ingest while keeping undesirable inflammatory molecules and pathogenic microbes from getting in. If this barrier gets damaged, it can cause serious health problems. In intestinal diseases like IBD, the intestinal lining is compromised, and chemicals produced by bacteria, or bacteria themselves, pass through the barrier and into the blood in a phenomenon often called leaky gut.

In this study, scientists have created a new way to assess gut function that only requires a milliliter (about one-fifth of a teaspoon) of blood and stool. The test focuses on short‐chain fatty acids (SCFA) that are made by bacteria. Using a rodent model and clinical samples from children with and without IBD, the researchers ratioed the levels of several types of SCFAs in the blood to the levels in the stool.

The researchers reported that their rodent model and patients showed that IBD causes an increase in the blood‐to‐stool ratio of SCFA. They suggested that SCFAs are penetrating to the blood more frequently in IBD cases.

This test doesn't require the preparation or anesthesia that a colonoscopy necessitates. It also can analyze whether the gut is leaky even if the lining doesn't appear damaged.

An early diagnosis could help keep a gut disorder from getting worse and causing other problems, as well as helping patients sooner. It may also be useful in assessing food allergies and celiac disease, but that will have to be confirmed with additional testing.

"This may be a very important tool for diagnosis and treatment of gut and other diseases, using the leaky gut as a marker for disease, as well as a potential target for treatment," noted the senior author of the study Marcin Ufnal.


Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! via The Physiological Society, Experimental Physiology

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
APR 29, 2021
Immunology
A Week for World Immunization
APR 29, 2021
A Week for World Immunization
The World Health Organization (WHO) is calling our attention to World Immunization Week, which comes in the last week of ...
MAY 02, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Coral Cells Can Spit Out the Symbionts They Don't Want
MAY 02, 2021
Coral Cells Can Spit Out the Symbionts They Don't Want
Some microalgae are symbionts, like dinoflagellates that live in coral. A symbiotic sea anemone is seen in this image by ...
MAY 13, 2021
Microbiology
The Gut Microbiome Was More Diverse in Ancient People
MAY 13, 2021
The Gut Microbiome Was More Diverse in Ancient People
What can we learn from a specimen of ancient poo? A lot, it turns out. Scientists have now reported their findings from ...
MAY 27, 2021
Clinical & Molecular DX
Breakthrough Diagnostic Detects TB Infections in Infants Sooner
MAY 27, 2021
Breakthrough Diagnostic Detects TB Infections in Infants Sooner
There are nearly a million cases of tuberculosis (TB) every year, and over 80 percent of childhood deaths from TB occur ...
JUN 14, 2021
Coronavirus
COVID-19 May Cause Diabetes
JUN 14, 2021
COVID-19 May Cause Diabetes
Reporting in Cell Metabolism, an international team of researchers has suggested that COVID-19 has caused diabetes in so ...
JUN 16, 2021
Microbiology
DNA - It's What's for Dinner (For Some Bacteria)
JUN 16, 2021
DNA - It's What's for Dinner (For Some Bacteria)
There may be a trillion species of microbes on the planet, so clearly there's still a lot we don't know about these micr ...
Loading Comments...