Rates of inflammatory bowel disease have been jumping as high as 15 percent a year in newly industrialized countries since the start of the 21st Century two decades ago, a study reports.
The research, “Worldwide incidence and prevalence of inflammatory bowel disease in the 21st century: a systematic review of population-based studies,” was published in the journal The Lancet.
For a long time, scientists regarded IBD as a disease of Western industrialized nations. But in the past two to three decades it has become a public health challenge all over the world. In North America 1.5 million people have IBD. In Europe the figure is 2 million.
While the rate of IBD in the Western has been leveling off, it’s still high — 0.3 percent of the population.
While scientists know the rate has been rising outside the West, they didn’t have exact figures. British, Canadian and Chinese researchers decided to review studies of IBD rates across the world since 1990 to try to come up with rates outside the West.
They discovered that rates in North America and Europe are either stable or decreasing but rates in newly industrialized countries have been increasing since the 1990s. That’s particularly true in countries in Africa, Asia, and South America.
The main inflammatory bowel diseases are Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis.
In Brazil, Crohn’s cases have been jumping 11 percent a year and ulcerative colitis cases 15 percent a year. In Taiwan, the rates have been 4 percent for Crohn’s and 5 percent for ulcerative colitis.
“Our study shows that at the turn of the 21st Century, inflammatory bowel disease has become a global disease with accelerating incidence in newly industrialised countries whose societies have become more Westernized,” Professor Subrata Ghosh, director of the United Kingdom’s Institute of Translational Medicine, said in a press release,
“We have shown an accelerating incidence in countries in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and South America that mirrors inflammatory bowel disease incidence in the Western world during the latter half of the 20th Century,” he added.
Professor Siew Ng of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said he believes the increase outside the West suggests a “strong environmental influence within a genetically susceptible population.” Some bowel disease runs in families.
The researchers said they believe the IBD rate in newly industrialized countries has yet to reach its peak. Dealing with IBD’s increasing global burden will require the development of therapies that both prevent and treat the disease, they said.