Paediatric inflammatory bowel disease is a debilitating lifelong chronic condition that results from intestinal inflammation. Disease subtypes include Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. The exact causes and triggers are unknown. One in 5 patients are diagnosed in the first two decades of life, and of these, 1 in 4 are aged under 10 years. The number of new cases diagnosed annually in children in Ireland has risen 2-3 fold in the past 15 years, but the reasons are unclear. Ireland has one of the highest incidence rates of childhood IBD in Western Europe, with over 100 new cases being diagnosed annually. While certain parallels exist between children and adults with this condition, treatment approaches and outcomes differ significantly.
Ireland is uniquely placed to study IBD in young patients, having a single national tertiary referral centre, based at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin.
The DOCHAS study was established in 2012 with the support of the NCRC. It sets out to provide a robust platform from which multifaceted research into paediatric IBD can take place. All new patients are recruited from the time of referral. Clinical data and pre-treatment biologic samples taken prospectively have enabled NCRC-based scientists to shed new insights into this enigmatic disease, giving hope to patients and families for new treatment modalities.
The gastroenterology research group also participates in several international multicentre studies of IBD in childhood and adolescence, including outcomes research, gene discovery, nutritional management and of environmental and microbial factors that underscore this condition. These studies offer Irish children and teenagers the opportunity of participating in world-class research activities, helping to solve a world-wide problem.