New blood test can predict severe Crohn’s diagnosis up to 7 years in advance, study finds

An innovative blood test can predict a Crohn’s disease diagnosis years in advance. A group of international researchers say that an antibody detectable in blood can predict severe Crohn’s disease up to seven years prior to diagnosis.

More than 500,000 Americans suffer from Crohn’s disease, according to the National Institutes of Health.

In a large subset of Crohn’s patients, researchers found antibodies neutralized the protective effects of the cytokine and disrupted intestinal homeostasis. The cytokine sustains immune balance in the intestine by promoting protective and anti-microbial immunity.

Researchers say the changes were detectable in the blood of patients years before a diagnosis. The changes caused the immune system to weaken over time, damaging the lower part of the small intestine. It’s a condition known as complicated ileal Crohn’s disease.

“Our team identified a serological biomarker for Crohn’s disease that also participates in its pathogenesis and occurs years before the disease shows its full clinical spectrum,” says Arthur Mortha, one of the study’s authors and an assistant professor of immunology in University of Toronto’s Temerity Faculty of Medicine, in a statement.

“The current arsenal of therapeutics that causes relieving remission in Crohn’s patients is good but suffers limitations,” Mortha continues. “A biomarker or predictive indicators to guide interventions are a clinical need. In addition, our characterization of this biomarker suggests it is a suitable therapeutic target for intervention and maybe even prevention.”

Researchers conducted the study by using blood samples from the U.S. Department of Defense Serum Repository to identify and characterize the biomarker. They studied samples collected annually over a decade from 220 military personnel who developed the disease and compared them to patients with ulcerative colitis and hundreds of healthy controls.

According to the study, the biomarker strongly predicted risk for ileal Crohn’s, however not all patients shoed the same exact form and severity of the disease. Researchers say the biomarker was present in nearly 25% of the patients who developed Crohn’s.

“Our system allows us to see how the antibodies in each patient specifically neutralize the cytokine. We are now engineering cytokines that can escape neutralization by these antibodies within individual patients,” says Mortha.

The study is published in the journal Gastroenterology.

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