Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are chronic relapsing gastrointestinal conditions characterised by an influx of inflammatory cells to the affected gut mucosa. The mainstay of diagnosing and re-evaluating these conditions in clinical practice and research is by invasive serological, radiological, endoscopic and histological assessment. In clinical trials, disease activity is often evaluated using a combination of the above tests plus clinical indices such as the Crohn's Disease Activity Index and Ulcerative Colitis Activity Index. These tools rely on subjective assessment of symptoms and so, often, do not correlate with mucosal inflammation or mucosal healing, which may be the preferred therapeutic end point for long-term inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) management. The faecal biomarkers calprotectin and lactoferrin are neutrophil derived proteins that are stable in faeces and can be detected by quantitative ELISA in small stool samples. Concentrations of both are raised in patients with gastrointestinal mucosal inflammation. They provide a unique, inexpensive, non-invasive method of testing for active inflammatory disease. They can be used to screen for IBD and as a surrogate marker of mucosal healing they are useful in monitoring the response to therapeutic intervention or surgery. They may also predict the clinical course of the disease. This clinical review aims to discuss the current evidence, limitations and potential future uses of these biomarkers in IBD.
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Competing interests CL has previously received an educational grant from TechLab, Inc who manufacture the IBD-SCAN ELISA testing kit for faecal lactoferrin. TechLab, Inc have previously supplied JCM with IBD-SCAN ELISA testing kits for research into postoperative Crohn's disease.
Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
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