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Brisbane researchers put the spotlight on Crohn’s and colitis

Scientists at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research have commenced Queensland’s first population-based study into the causes of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, disorders that affect up to one in every 200 Australians.

QIMR’s Dr Graham Radford-Smith and his team will be working closely with a network of doctors across Brisbane to identify and recruit patients for the landmark study.

This week, during National Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Week, 18 – 22 June 2007, patient support groups and researchers are highlighting these diseases and the effect they have on sufferers.

The term inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) refers to both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. IBD is a separate condition from the more common functional bowel disorder known as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

“IBD is a debilitating illness and it is becoming more common, but the causes are still unknown. It is important that the community becomes more aware of this disease and of the research we are conducting,” said Dr Radford-Smith.

IBD affects both males and females, including children. Patients need medication for long periods of time, and more than half will have bowel surgery.

“Ongoing symptoms like tummy pain and diarrhoea, plus frequent visits to the doctor, have a major impact on patients’ health, work and personal lives,” Dr Radford-Smith adds.

“The study aims to discover whether people’s genes or inherited features could partly cause IBD. We also want to see if our lifestyle or things in the environment around us might trigger IBD.”

The study will look at two groups of people – those who have inflammatory bowel disease, and those who do not. Any differences between the two groups could indicate an important factor that causes or protects people from getting IBD.

“One of the major challenges with this type of research is ensuring we have enough participants,” Dr Radford-Smith explained. “Whilst patients can volunteer to participate, those who do not have IBD must be randomly selected so that they are typical of all people in Brisbane.”

Anyone who receives a personal letter of invitation to participate is encouraged to respond.

Patients with IBD in Brisbane who wish to volunteer for the study can contact Kathy Gray.