By Tod Hoffman

IMage: Andy/flickr
IMage: Andy/flickr

People with airway diseases, including asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), have a higher incidence of inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, according to the findings of a new study.

The research, which was recently published online in the European Respiratory Journal, is the first population-based study to examine the association between airway diseases and the incidence of bowel disease. The results showed that the incidence of Crohn’s Disease was 27 per cent higher in people with asthma and 55 per cent higher in people with COPD, compared to the general population. The incidence of ulcerative colitis was 30 per cent higher in people with COPD compared to the general population.

“These findings have important implications for the early detection of inflammatory bowel disease in airway disease patients,” said Dr. Paul Brassard, of the Lady Davis Institute at the Jewish General Hospital and Associate Professor of Medicine at McGill, the lead author of the study. “Although a link has previously been suggested, this is the first study to find significantly increased rates of inflammatory bowel disease incidence in people with asthma and COPD. If we can confirm a link between the two conditions it will help diagnose and treat people sooner, reducing their symptoms and improving their quality of life.”

Previous studies have suggested a link between the two conditions, which could be a result of common genetic and environmental factors, or similar inflammatory responses seen in the immune system. If the link is proven, it would have key implications for clinicians treating people with airway diseases.

Researchers used a health database to retrieve information on both airway disease and inflammatory bowel disease from 2001 to 2006. By using information on the prescriptions of both asthma and COPD medications during the time period, the researchers identified 136,178 people with asthma and 143,904 people with COPD. Data from doctor and hospital visits was then used to identify the bowel conditions, Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis, in both groups.

The paper, “Increased incidence of inflammatory bowel disease in Quebec residents with airway diseases,” by Paul Brassard, Maria Vutcovici, Pierre Ernst, Valérie Patenaude, Maida Sewitch, Samy Suissa, Alain Bitton, can be viewed here.

November 25, 2014