New intestinal disease charted by Swedish researcher

Microscopic colitis is a newly discovered inflammatory intestinal disease that occurs in two different forms, lymphocytary colitis and collagenic colitis. Örebro University, Sweden, is on the cutting edge of research on these diseases, and Martin Olesen is one of first scientists in the country to write a dissertation on the subject, defending it at University Hospital, Örebro.

The disease is difficult to discover because the mucous lining of the intestine often looks perfectly normal when the colon is examined by so-called colonoscopy. But with the aid of tissue samples and microscopic analyses, rebro researchers have nevertheless succeeded in charting the extent of the disease.

Our study of new cases of microscopic colitis showed that the condition is considerably more common than was previously believed, says Martin Olesen. Microscopic colitis occurred in ten percent of all those undergoing a colonoscopy indicated by diarrhea and in twenty percent of those who were over 70 years of age. This means that microscopic colitis is just as common as the established intestinal disease ulcerous colitis.

The causes of lymphocytary colitis are probably numerous. In one tenth of patients it is suspected that the disease was caused by some drug set in as treatment for some other disease. There are also signs that it is an infectious disease and that heredity plays a role.

We found an increased production of nitric oxide in the intestine in both collagenic and lymphocytary colitis, says Martin Olesen. There also proved to be a correlation between the activity of the disease and the concentration of nitric oxide. One theory in this case is that drugs that reduce the production of nitric oxide in the intestines could help patients with microscopic colitis.

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