A Peek Deep into the Bowels

Researchers develop new endoscope to track bacteria in the gut

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Researchers have developed a new tool to help the early detection and diagnosis of inflammatory bowel disease. The Confocal Laser Endomicroscope (CLE), a new kind of endoscope, was created by an international team of researchers led by the University of East Anglia.

The CLE allows clinicians to see the bacteria that are believed to cause bowel diseases such as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.

The European researchers, funded by the Wellcome Trust, studied 163 patients. In addition to developing the CLE, they also found that those with Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis were much more likely to have bacteria within the wall of their gut than those with healthy intestines.

Speaking of the endoscope his team created, Professor Alastair Watson of the University of East Anglia said, "Bacteria within the wall of the gut are already believed to play an important role in the development of inflammatory bowel disease and we now have a powerful new tool for viewing this bacteria during routine colonoscopy." He continues, "This new technique will allow the rapid identification of patients at risk or in the early stages of this common but distressing group of diseases."

Although the causes of Chrohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are not entirely known, scientists believe bacteria within the mucous membrane of the gut are at least partly responsible. Currently, patients undergo biopsies to treat such bowel diseases. However, the bacteria's exact location and the way it interacts with the mucous membrane cannot be identified through biopsy. The technology of the CLE, on the other hand, uses a fluorescent dye to highlight the bacteria, which gives clinicians and scientists the ability to follow the bacterial processes at a sub-cellular level during routine colonoscopies.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
December 6, 2010
Last Updated:
December 7, 2010