This is thanks to our friends at Cure Crohn’s Colitis.
How to Predict and Avoid a Crohn’s Disease Flare Up
One of the worst things about Crohn’s disease is the speed and seeming randomness with which the disease can go from an inactive remission state to an active flare-up.
Because of the pain, inflammation and many other complications of a flare up, treating the symptoms can be difficult and frequently require the use of damaging drugs like steroids.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful then if we could predict flare-ups before they happen, avoiding all that pain and allowing our doctors to prevent their occurrence with more targeted and les destructive treatments?
Well that’s exactly what Cure Crohn’s and Colitis have set out to discover by funding an amazing series of studies which are undeway right now.
The Studies So Far:
Now, we’ve already talked about Dr Daniel Gaya and Dr John MacKenzie’s groundbreaking work into monitoring Crohn’s Disease through Calprotectin levels. In this study John and Daniel discovered that simple stool samples could be used as an accurate, far cheaper and far less invasive method of monitoring the disease than Colonoscopies and radio-scanning.
Cure Crohn’s and Colitis are now funding Daniel to take this research forward still further.
The new study, which is underway right now, seeks to ascertain whether a single stool sample might be enough to accurately base Crohn’s treatment on, or whether results might change day by day.
Even more excitingly, it is looking into the possibility that this technique could be used to predict and prevent Crohn’s flare-ups before they happen.
Stage One: Just one test?
Cure Crohn’s and Colitis Have funded Daniel to test the stool samples of 96 Crohn’s sufferers (who are currently in remission) over 3 consecutive days. The 288 resultant samples having been carefully monitored to detect whether their calprotectin levels changed significantly over this period.
The data from this first stage of the study has already been collected and submitted to the British Society of Gastroenterology annual meeting.
The key results of the study are that the three day’s calprotectin levels were nearly identical, meaning that a one-off stool sample can be considered a reliable indicator on inflammation levels. This means that gastroenterologists can make fast, accurate treatment decisions based on a single sample.
Now obviously, the faster the correct treatment can be delivered, the better the patient’s quality of life, so this is already a great result, but this is only stage one in the study – it gets better!
Stage Two: Seeing into the Future
Daniel discovered that many of the patients in the stage one study have high calprotectin levels despite appearing to be in ‘remission’. Daniel suspects that these patients may be at most risk of relapsing in the near future.
By monitoring all of the 96 participants in the study over the next year, Daniel will be able to ascertain whether these patients do indeed experience a flare-up of their disease, and therefore whether the elevated calprotectin levels could be used to predict a flare-up before it happens.
If this is proved it could mean dramatic improvements in proactive treatment for Crohn’s sufferers, with the potential for preventative medication to be delivered before a flare-up even has the chance to occur, hopefully reducing the flare’s severity or even preventing its occurrence entirely.
Hypothetically, as inflammation and damage would not yet have occurred, the patient could avoid the complications and side-effects of anti-inflammatory drugs such as steroids. Instead doctors would use immune-suppressants or biological drugs which alter the activity of the disease itself rather than just trying to repair the damage caused by it.
This study is already underway – the progress of the 96 patients will be followed closely at 3 monthly intervals over a full year to ascertain how their health is progressing. We should have the results by December 2012 – so watch this space!
Here’s the direct link if you’d like to read more.