Inflammatory Bowel Disease and the Canine Microbiome

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) can be a very serious condition. Known to cause severe diarrhea, pain, fatigue and weight loss, IBD can, with time, become debilitating--and in the most severe of cases can even cause life-threatening complications.


A diagnostic hurdle

One problem that makes IBD particularly challenging to treat is that diagnosing the condition can be difficult. The symptoms of IBD correspond to a number of distinct conditions of varying severity, and oftentimes the only way to know for sure if someone has IBD is to perform a biopsy. Even when this is done, however, occasional inaccuracies can lead to misdiagnosis--and the process is both invasive and expensive.


The research

Because of these issues, scientists continue searching for better methods of diagnosis. A recent study published October 3rd in Nature Microbiology may indicate some promise in this regard. Researchers at UC San Diego, led by Dr. Rob Knight, Ph.D., looked at the microbial contents of the feces of well over a hundred dogs--and, based upon the species present in each sample, were able to predict with 90% accuracy which dogs were suffering from canine IBD.


The implications

These findings are not going to change the world overnight. The same study also determined that the digestive microbiome of dogs is simply too different for these findings to be applied to human patients. Nonetheless, the overall implications of this research do seem to lend credence to the notion that we may one day be able to identify IBD based upon microbial studies. In a best-case scenario, it may even be possible to treat such conditions by manipulating the microbiome in minimally invasive ways.