Paediatric inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) results in chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, and occasionally other organs. IBD can cause symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloody diarrhoea, fatigue, weight loss and malnutrition and negatively impacts quality of life.
The two main subtypes are ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Ulcerative colitis results in inflammation of the lining of the colon (large bowel). The entire colon is involved in most young patients, in contrast with adult patients. Crohn’s Disease displays a different pattern of chronic inflammation which extends beyond the lining of the intestine, potentially affecting any segment of the intestine from the mouth to the anus. The incidence of inflammatory bowel disease in Irish children has trebled since 2001 and continues to rise, with over 120 new cases diagnosed each year.
The National Children’s Research Centre and Children Health Foundation Crumlin have made significant investments in Paediatric Inflammatory Bowel Disease research in Ireland. The focal point of this funding has been DOCHAS (Determinants and Outcomes in CHildren and Adolescents with Inflammatory Bowel Disease), a study led by Prof. Séamus Hussey.
DOCHAS, the Irish word for hope, is a longitudinal clinical study that prospectively recruits all children and adolescents with newly diagnosed inflammatory bowel disease at Children’s Health Ireland (CHI) Crumlin and follows the progression of their disease and treatment outcomes through to adulthood.
The Gastroenterology service in CHI Crumlin is the single referral centre for paediatric IBD in the Republic of Ireland placing it in the unique position of being able to capture the national picture of paediatric IBD in Ireland.
Séamus’ vision in developing DOCHAS was to bring together clinical and scientific expertise and foster high-impact collaborative research outputs that would benefit patients. The tandem approach of gathering robust clinical data and biological samples has established this unique prospective translational research platform, from which researchers can study factors that potentially cause, modify or treat inflammatory bowel disease, including factors that contribute to poor clinical outcomes and treatment failure.
Since DOCHAS started in 2012, over 1200 children have been recruited to the study. Throughout the course of their care, clinical data (e.g. treatment outcomes, disease complications, patient wellbeing) and biological samples (e.g. DNA, blood, gastrointestinal biopsies) are collected.
Thanks to the participation of patients and their families in the DOCHAS study, Séamus and his research team (current members include Dr. Sarah Cooper, Ms. Anna Dominik and Mr. Adhin John Varghese) have learned a lot about children with IBD in Ireland.
Major findings include:
The DOCHAS team also work with a number of academic collaborators in Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin, and The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. Areas of focus include potential targets for future treatment and probing for potential differences in molecular pathways in patients with IBD relative to healthy control patients.
You can find additional information on some of these projects through the following links:
*For anyone with suspected inflammatory bowel disease features, please attend your family doctor for initial assessment, and they will undertake investigations and referrals as appropriate.
*Figure 1 image attribution: This images incorporates http://www.freepik.com”>Designed by brgfx / Freepik.