Does a Low Vitamin D Level Increase the Risk of Crohn’s Disease? And Other Biomarkers

A recent study (BN Limketkai et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2020; 18: 1769-76Levels of Vitamin D Are Low After Crohn’s Disease Is Established But Not Before) takes advantage of stored serum from U.S. military personnel.

Key finding: By examining 240 with Crohn’s disease (CD) along with 240 control patients, the authors show that vitamin D levels prior to CD diagnosis are not associated with the development of CD up to 8 years preceding the diagnosis.

Two other articles on predictive biomarkers for CD and an associated editorial:

  • N Nair et al. Gastroenterol 2020; 159: 383-5. Association Between Early-life Exposures and Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, Based on Analyses of Deciduous Teeth
  • J Torres, F Petralia et al. Gastroenterol 2020; 159: 96-104Serum Biomarkers Identify Patients Who Will Develop Inflammatory Bowel Diseases Up to 5 Years Before Diagnosis
  • New Biomarkers for Crohn’s Disease (editorial) C Bernstein. Gastroenterol 2020; 159: 30-32. Key points from editorial:
    • “In the article by Nair et al, the authors relate the presence of heavy metals in baby teeth to the later development of Crohn’s disease…The finding of metals that can be tracked to the in utero state suggests that the offspring who will ultimately present with IBD and have high values of these metals are likely acquiring these metals from their mothers.”
    • “In the study by Torres et al, a serum bank of Department of Defense recruits was accessed to study for microbial antibodies and immune-inflammatory markers for ≤5 years antedating diagnoses of either Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. Anti-Flagellin X and ASCA-IgA were predictive of Crohn’s disease…The authors have convincingly showed that these microbial antibodies and immune-inflammatory mediators are present years before the first clinical manifestation of Crohn’s disease. These phenomena very likely are early biological manifestations of Crohn’s disease. They may not be risk factors that Crohn’s disease is coming, but rather that it is already present.”

My take: Stored tissue/blood eventually may help predict who will develop CD.  Given a lack of current treatment options in those at risk, the importance of these predictive markers is unclear.