T-Cell Exhaustion Triggers Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Enabling Better Differentiation of Disease Types

New research conducted by a team in Australia reports that immune system exhaustion is associated with diarrhea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome (IBS-D), a specific type of the disease. The study followed patients with various types of IBS, comparing blood work over a period of 1 year that covered both symptomatic and symptom free states. All of the subjects with IBS-D were found to exhibit exhaustion in their T-cells. The normally-active immune cells were less responsive to stimulation, secreted fewer mediators, and divided less frequently. Lead author Patrick Hughes, PhD, commented, "This is an important discovery, particularly as it helps to further distinguish between the different types of irritable bowel syndrome. This may eventually help us to better understand how to diagnose and treat the disease."

Previous research into IBS has established an association with stress, and stress hormones are known to inhibit immune system function. Dr. Hughes noted that irritable bowel disease is an especially debilitating condition that impacts sufferers in the prime of their lives, and for which current treatment options are poor. “Anything we can do to better understand the disease and to help reduce its debilitating effects on patients will be welcome,” Hughes asserted. The findings are published in the journal Gut.

Read a news story about the discovery.

The journal abstract may be read here.

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