Edinburgh ‘global hotspot’ for inflammatory bowel disease rates

According to their study, one in 125 people in the city have Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis – collectively known as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

“There is no doubt that IBD is now becoming a global pandemic”

Charlie Lees

They predicted that this figure will spiral to one in 98 by 2028, putting further strain on NHS resources.

The University of Edinburgh study found that Crohn’s disease affected 284 people out of every 100,000 in Scotland’s capital.

The world’s highest rate is 322 people out of 100,000 in Hesse, Germany, the authors of the study noted.

In addition, they found ulcerative colitis affected 432 people out of every 100,000 in Edinburgh, which is second only to South East Norway, where it affects 505 people in every 100,000.

The study findings, published in the journal Gut, broadly apply to the rest of Scotland, the UK and across the western world, researchers said.

Dr Gareth-Rhys Jones, clinical lecturer in IBD at Edinburgh University’s Centre for Inflammation Research, said: “IBD is a condition that disrupts the lives of patients and their families all too frequently.

“Our findings highlight that more resources are needed to provide patients with the research, treatment and care they deserve,” he said.

Dr Charlie Lees, a consultant gastroenterologist in the Edinburgh IBD Unit, added: “There is no doubt that IBD is now becoming a global pandemic.

“This study provides much-needed data and can act as a launchpad for pivotal new studies to help patients,” he said.

Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are lifelong and debilitating conditions with no known cure. They are characterised by highly unpredictable and intrusive symptoms, such as diarrhoea, pain, weight loss and extreme fatigue.

“More resources are needed to provide patients with the research, treatment and care they deserve”

Gareth-Rhys Jones

The cause is unknown, but it is thought to be caused by an overactive gut immune response in genetically pre-disposed people. The makeup of normal gut bacteria and diet can also play an important role.

While patients with IBD require regular treatment and monitoring, the condition has a low mortality. Experts say this – combined with an ageing population – means the number of older people with IBD is set to increase in the coming years.

Sarah Sleet, chief executive of the charity Crohn’s and Colitis UK, said: “This important study contributes to the growing evidence that the prevalence of IBD is significantly higher than is currently recognised.”