Identifying IBD Years Before Symptoms

A while back there was a movie called “Minority Report.”  The movie’s premise was that crimes could be predicted and stopped before they occurred.  A recent study (P Lochhead et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2016; 14: 818-24) presents intriguing data suggesting a similar scenario for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

The authors used a prospective, nested case control study of participants in the Nurses’ Health Study I and II. Median age of patients with Crohn’s disease (CD) (n=83) and ulcerative colitis (UC) (n=90) was 52.7 years and 50.4 years respectively. Key findings:

  • Median prediagnostic hsCRP levels (mg/L) were 2.3 in CD, 2.2 in UC and 1.5 in controls (n=344).
  • Median prediagnostic IL6 levels (pg/mL) were 1.7 in CD, 1.2 in UC, and 1.0 in controls.
  • Median time interval between blood collection and diagnosis was 6.6 years for CD and 6.8 years for UC.
  • There was increased odds for developing disease even after adjustment for potentially confounding variables like smoking.  This analysis held up even when excluding disease that developed within 2 years of sampling.

Overall, this study suggests that there is a significant population of patients with subclinical IBD which precedes the diagnosis by several years.  This report adds to a number of other studies showing potential “preclinical phase” of many diseases including rheumatoid arthritis and type 1 diabetes.

My take: It is fascinating that bloodwork can be abnormal years before clinical symptoms. However, as in “Minority Report” the problem will be with identifying a crime/disease that might never occur.

Unrelated –Chart Depicting Car Temps:

car temp