A significantly higher number of Americans suffer from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) than previous estimates suggested, according to newly released data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Nationally, IBD – a broad term that includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis – affects more than 3 million individuals, says the CDC in a recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
That’s nearly triple what previous estimates have indicated.
“This study is one of the few times that inflammatory bowel disease prevalence estimates among U.S. adults have been assessed for a wide range of respondent characteristics using a large, nationally representative data source,” states the CDC.
The expanded disease incidence means that the health burden on the population may have been significantly understated, given the challenging nature of the condition and its impact on an individual’s health.
“Inflammatory bowel disease has been associated with decreased quality of life and extensive morbidity and often results in complications requiring hospitalizations and surgical procedures,” note the CDC researchers.
Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are marked by chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. The conditions can lead to abdominal pain, fatigue, fever and diarrhea, as well as weight loss and lost appetite. In women, the diseases can lead to an abnormal menstrual cycle, notes the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America.
A Remedy on the Horizon?
Recently, a group of researchers from the University of California, Irvine discovered a unique path for treating bowel inflammation in mice.
Their study, published in the journal Nature, investigates at the role of microcins – proteins produced by certain healthy bacteria – and how they interact with inflammation associated with IBD.
Feeding the mice a diet rich with microcins, the scientists witnessed a significant drawback in the inflammatory response to bacterial infections, which result in a similar range of symptoms to Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis – namely, intestinal inflammation.
The University of California researchers are currently working to “purify” microcins to study whether they can be delivered as targeted antibiotics to people suffering from IBD and other conditions affecting the gastrointestinal tract.
IBD Prevalence Differs Among Groups
Rates of IBD incidence aren’t equal across all parts of the population, according to the latest CDC study. Researchers found that those over 45 years of age showed a “higher prevalence” of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
Women are more likely than men to suffer from IBD – the condition affects about 1.7 million women in the U.S. compared to 1.3 million men. Also, white men and women are more commonly affected, with 2.3 million cases, or about 74 percent of the disease incidence.
“Understanding the prevalence of IBD in the United States is important to both identify the health and financial burdens created by this disease and to inform policy and resource allocation,” state the CDC researchers. The new data will also “help identify subgroups with higher prevalence rates who might be most in need of resources to manage and treat this potentially fatal chronic disease.”
Direct treatment costs related to IBD exceed $6.8 billion.
Richard Scott is a health care reporter focusing on health policy and public health. Richard keeps tabs on national health trends from his Philadelphia location and is an active member of the Association of Health Care Journalists.