The IBS Treatment Center is to use PCR testing technology to aid in getting to the root causes of individual cases of irritable bowel syndrome.
They say the new testing technique will allow for more accurate determination of the microbial balance of patients' intestines. This could then lead to more precisely tailored and effective treatment.
The Center, based in Seattle in the US, has always aimed to determine the underlying causes of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) in each individual patient. This is in contrast to standard medical care for the condition which is limited to ruling out more serious conditions, like cancer, and offering generic dietary and lifestyle advice such as altering intake of fibre.
Doctors at the Center believe that a variety of factors can underly symptoms of IBS and that every patient is different so therefore needs an individualized treatment approach. Some of the factors they say may contribute include food allergies and intolerances, microbial imbalances or infections and parasitic infection.
This approach does have substantial scientific backing despite it not forming part of standard IBS care. There is a substantial amount of research for example showing that the gut flora (the micro-organisms that normally inhabit the gut) of IBS patients is out of balance with a lack of beneficial bacteria and unhealthy levels of disease causing bacteria. This is known as gut dysbiosis.
Some large scaled studies have found that up to 50% of IBS patients have a condition known as small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). In this condition there are much larger numbers of bacteria in the small intestine and this can cause many of the symptoms of IBS such as bloating, abdominal pain and flatulence as the bacteria ferment food that is consumed.
SIBO is usually tested for using a breath test to detect gases given off as the bacteria ferment sugars. Disturbances in the gut flora lower down in the intestianl tract may also cause symptoms however and testing of bacterial composition here is more difficult.
The Center explains that until recently best testing available for determining which microbes affect the patient's intestines was limited by a need to grow the microbes in culture. This meant that microbes that can't survive in the presence of oxygen, or have highly variable excretion rates were very hard or impossible to detect.
The new testing technique actually detects the DNA of the organisms present in the gut using Nobel Prize-winning PCR technology. PCR stands for polymerase chain reaction is is commonly used in molecular biology. It is a technique which amplifies strands of DNA which makes for a highly sensitive diagnostic testing. As such it is now being used to test for a variety of organisms in the human body including Borrelia burgdorferi (Bb), the organism responsible for Lyme disease.
At the IBS Treatment Center the PCR testing enables the physician to know if the patient has an infection, understand the balance of necessary, healthy bacteria, and even know if microbes are carrying drug-resistant genes.
Dr. Wangen, founder and Chief Medical Officer at the Center said: "Irritable Bowel Syndrome treatment success at the IBS Treatment Center has been very high -- the vast majority of patients find relief. This new testing will bring us even closer to 100% success."
The IBS Treatment Center treats patients from across the US and even some from as far away as Thailand and New Zealand.
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