Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

An international study of more than 50,000 people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) has revealed that IBS symptoms may be caused by the same biological processes as conditions such as anxiety. The research highlights the close relationship between brain and gut health and paves the way for development of new treatments.

Woman holding abdomen in pain

IBS is a common condition world-wide, affecting around 1 in 10 people and causing a wide range of symptoms including abdominal pain, bloating and bowel dysfunction that can significantly affect people’s lives.  Diagnosis is usually made after considering other possible conditions (such as Crohn’s disease or bowel cancer), with clinical tests coming back ‘normal’.  The condition often runs in families and is also more common among people who are prone to anxiety. The causes of IBS are not well understood, but an international team of researchers has now identified several genes that provide clues into the origins of IBS.

Researchers from the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology at Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences (NDORMS) joined the research team which included more than 40 institutions. Coordinated by scientists in the UK and Spain, they looked at genetic data from 40,548 people who suffer with IBS from the UK Biobank and 12,852 from the Bellygenes initiative (a world-wide study aiming to identify genes linked to IBS) and compared them to 433,201 people without IBS (controls), focusing on individuals of European ancestry. The findings were repeated with de-identified data from the genomics company 23andMe Inc., provided by customers who have consented to research, by comparing 205,252 people with IBS to 1,384,055 controls.

The results, published in Nature Genetics, showed that overall, heritability of IBS (how much your genes influence the likelihood of developing a particular condition) is quite low, indicating the importance of environmental factors such as diet, stress and patterns of behaviour that may also be shared in the family environment.

Read the full story on the NDORMS website

Similar stories

Student Prizes for Biomedical Sciences and Medicine 2021-2022

Congratulations to all our Biomedical Sciences students and Medicine students who have been awarded prizes during the 2021-2022 academic year.

Five ways the pandemic has affected routine medical care

Since the beginning of the pandemic, COVID has infected at least a third of the UK population and is estimated to have factored in the deaths of almost 200,000 people in the UK. But critically, COVID has also had a devastating impact on our healthcare systems. While this was expected, new evidence is beginning to reveal the scope of the issue – in particular the effects for people living with long-term health conditions.

Clinical trials for a malaria vaccine start in Mali and Indonesia

Sanaria Inc. announced that two new Phase 2 trials of its pioneering malaria vaccines have started. The first is in 6- to 10-year-old children living in Bancoumana, Mali, a malarious region of West Africa. The second is in Indonesian soldiers based in Sumatra, Indonesia. The soldiers will be deploying for six to nine months this coming August to an intensely malarious district in eastern Indonesia.

Researchers discover novel form of adaptation in the auditory system

Researchers in the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics (DPAG) have found that the auditory system adapts to the changing acoustics of reverberant environments by temporally shifting the inhibitory tuning of cortical neurons to remove reverberation.

20 minutes of daily exercise can keep teens' doctors away

Teenagers should exercise vigorously for at least 20 minutes per day to reap increased cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF), according to a cross-sectional study from the UK led by University of Oxford researchers.

Mechanism of expanding bacteria revealed

A new study published in Nature has identified a potential Achilles heel in the protective layers surrounding Gram-negative bacteria that could aid in the development of next-generation antibiotics.