A new study published in The Lancet has revealed that the countries outside the western world might be facing the pattern of increasing inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) rates. The findings presented at the World Congress of Gastroenterology in Orlando, Fla.

Dr Gilaad Kaplan, an associate professor at the Cumming School of Medicine said over the past 100 years, the incidence of IBD in western countries has climbed and then plateaued. The present study has shown that countries outside the western world now appear to be in the first stage of this sequence

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) affects over 0.3% of the population in North America and Europe, with >200,000 patients suffering in Canada. IBD is a modern disease, growing in prevalence in North America, Europe and Australia since the 1950s.

As countries in Asia, South America and the Middle East have become industrialized, IBD has emerged and its incidence is rising dramatically. At the turn of the 21st century, it became a global disease, said Dr Gilaad Kaplan.

The researchers collected data from all population-based studies (n= 147) reporting on the incidence or prevalence of IBD (Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis) since 1990. As newly industrialized countries become more westernized, it can be clear that the incidence of IBD is also rapidly rising, said Siew Ng, PhD, at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

The rapid increase in incidence in many countries, especially in children, within one to two decades suggests strong environmental influence within a genetically susceptible population. Inflammatory bowel disease becomes a global problem, hence, a co-ordinated solution to prevent and treat IBD around the world could be possible.

Future research should focus on identifying environmental risk factors observed during the early stages of industrialization of society in order to highlight avenues to prevent the development of the disease. Research into the environmental intervention that helps to prevent IBD should be prioritized.

Kaplan said the increasing prevalence of IBD will challenge clinicians and health policy-makers. The study data highlights the need for research into prevention of inflammatory bowel disease and innovations in health-care systems to manage this complex and costly disease, he concluded.