The Role of Biomarkers in Diagnosing and Treating IBD

Each year more and more people are diagnosed with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

Although the exact cause of the condition is unknown, and no cure exists, science has significantly improved diagnosis and disease management by testing for unique biomarkers.

Watch the video: The Role of Biomarkers in Diagnosing and Treating IBD

What Are Biomarkers, And What Are They Used For?

The National Institutes of Health defines a biomarker as, “a characteristic that is objectively measured and evaluated as an indicator of normal biological processes, pathogenic processes, or pharmacologic responses to a therapeutic intervention.”

In other words, biomarkers are molecules found inside our bodies. These molecules can be proteins, lipids, and nucleic acids (DNA or RNA). The presence and quantity of these biological characteristics can indicate disease.

Doctors rely on two types of biomarkers to non-invasively diagnose and monitor the status of an IBD patient’s disease. 

C-Reactive Protein (CRP) – This biomarker is a protein found in your blood. CRP is a marker of inflammation.

Fecal Calprotectin (FCP) – This protein is measured using a stool sample. Its presence can indicate if there is inflammation in the body.

How Biomarkers Help Diagnose and Monitor IBD

Biomarker tests are beneficial because they help doctors observe and predict clinically relevant outcomes. For example, in treating IBD, their measurement can help monitor disease activity, predict symptom recurrence and estimate the therapeutic effect of a medication.

Testing for biomarkers helps answer critical questions, such as

  • Do I have Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis, or something else?
  • What is my risk for more severe disease?
  • Which drug am I more likely to respond to?
  • Are my symptoms signs of an IBD flare-up, or do I have an intestinal virus?

CRP and FCP are not the only biomarkers used in diagnosing and treating IBD, however, they are the most researched, and its measurement is better than other biomarker tests.

For example, although CRP is not a unique marker for IBD, it can help predict clinical activity in inflammatory conditions, including bowel diseases, when used as a simple serum.

Many doctors report the usefulness of Fecal Calprotectin (FCP) in various scenarios, including diagnosing IBD, predicting disease relapses or flare-ups, and assessing therapeutic effects.

Additionally, biomarkers can help doctors prescribe biologic infusion therapies that are likely to provide the most significant benefits. Regular monitoring of biomarkers allows them to assess if the biologic given is performing as expected or if it’s time to try a different drug.

The Future of Biomarker Testing

Scientists continue to research ways to improve biomarker testing to make it easier to diagnose and treat IBD accurately.

Their work primarily centers on identifying and understanding critical biomarkers specific to IBD to accelerate diagnosis and refine treatment strategies.

Some of the brightest minds in scientific research are joining in this task, creating a bright future for more straightforward disease diagnosis and effective treatment.

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