Crohn’s disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC) are the major forms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in developed nations such as Australia. It is common for a patient’s symptoms to first appear while they are in their 30s, although these diseases can affect children and older adults. IBD is a chronic illness and the symptoms, including diarrhoea, rectal bleeding, and abdominal pain, have a significant impact on quality of life.
The origin of IBD is not well understood, but the most favoured theory is that a genetically at-risk individual encounters a single or series of environmental triggers that lead to disease. Discovery of the first susceptibility gene for CD (called NOD2) and its proposed role in the body, support this hypothesis. The Gut Health Group is currently investigating several other genes for links to IBD.
Both CD and UC are characterised by a series of relapses and remissions. There is limited understanding of the clinical, environmental and genetic factors that may influence how severe the disease is or how often it recurs. The Gut Health Group is analysing a broad range of factors in a large cohort of IBD patients.