Research improving treatment options for IBD patients

19/May/2021     HealthResearch

Patients impacted by Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, can suffer from uncontrolled inflammation of the gut which can lead to debilitating symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhoea and malnutrition due to poor absorption of nutrients. If inflammation is not controlled, it may lead to complications requiring surgery or increased risk of bowel cancer.

Mater Gastroenterologist Associate Professor Jake Begun is currently working on several research projects to improve treatment options and therapies for IBD patients while giving them a greater understanding of these diseases.

“Firstly, we are using intestinal ultrasound to monitor IBD activity and reduce the need for more invasive tests. Ultrasound is a relatively new method of monitoring IBD in Australia and has only been done here for around the last five years,” Jake said.

“By using ultrasound with our patients, we can make a decision about their treatment options on the spot without sending them away for invasive procedures such as a colonoscopy or having them provide stool samples or wait for MRI results. 

“These forms of testing can take weeks once you book them in, have them done and find the results, all the while our patient is still suffering symptoms. With ultrasound we can quickly diagnose and treat appropriately on the spot with appropriate medications and therapies.”

Jake’s team at the Mater is also involved in several research projects around intestinal ultrasound including a study they have started to monitor severe ulcerative colitis, a major form of IBD, to predict response to medications. He said that additional research projects the Mater has been involved in having informed national policy and procedures around how ultrasound is performed and interpreted in IBD.

“I have been working with a group of doctors around the country to create a standardised approach to ultrasound use for IBD patients ensuring the validity of results, accuracy in reporting and correct techniques are being used,” Jake said.

Another research project Jake has been working on is being performed at the Translational Research Institute where he is mining the human gut microbiome in search of new bacterially derived therapies that can restore balance to the immune system.

“Patients with IBD have an altered gut microbiome associated with high amounts of inflammation. I am searching for bacteria that are missing in IBD and seeing if these can be grown in the laboratory and re-introduced to decrease inflammation,” Jake said.

“We are also looking for microbial signatures that can predict response to therapy and I am hopeful this research could inform how we create precision-based medicine to enable a more rapid response to therapy in our patients.

“This research is designed to enable better outcomes for patients, to reduce the severity of their symptoms, improve, improve their treatment options and have them feeling the best they can possibly feel.” 

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