New Research – particularly important to Canterbury

Canterbury has one of the developed world’s highest rates of Inflammatory Bowel disease with one in 80 people affected. Many people go undiagnosed for many years particularly young people, which has a significant impact on their physical and mental well-being and therefore their education and work life. Better tools for the ongoing assessment and diagnosis of gut inflammation should lead directly to improved outcomes for children and adults with IBD.

The Gut Foundation established in 1993, has a long-standing commitment to supporting research in the field of IBD, and have previously funded projects assessing IBD incidence rates in Canterbury. Strikingly, a more recently funded study in 2014 indicated that the number of patients diagnosed with IBD had increased by 50%. 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 required is a strong drawback for the use of this procedure, especially in children. Encouragingly, there is a growing body of evidence to suggest 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 to assess their risk of relapse is an appealing prospect. Gastroenterologists would therefore be able to diagnose IBD at a much faster rate by eliminating the wait time for a colonoscopy. 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 enable identification of novel markers of inflammation that better reflect disease severity and limit the need for colonoscopy.

The proposed research represents an exciting and significant opportunity for Teagan Hoskin an experienced researcher here in Canterbury. Tegan grew up with a sibling badly affected by Chron’s disease and has witnessed first-hand the distress of Gut disease.

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