The Intestinal Microbiome—Rosetta Stone or Tower of Babel?

One of the hot topics in modern-day research is the mapping and understanding of the human intestinal microbiome and its role in health and disease. Studies have suggested that the development of several diseases and conditions depends on how our microbiomes are influenced and shaped, but interpreting the data generated by such studies may not be that simple. Are we holding the key to understanding metabolic, immunological and pathological processes, or do the data produced so far preclude any type of generalization? Are we unraveling the code necessary to develop obesity, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), or are we looking at a chaos of data, different terminologies and methodologies?

UEG Week 2014 was the first UEG event that I’ve attended in person, and the meeting was so packed with interesting sessions, I felt like cloning myself and deploying my clones to follow the many parallel tracks on offer. But alas, like all my fellow attendees, I had to choose, and rarely have I felt so spoiled for choice! Luckily, accessing the UEG Education Library has allowed me to look up a lot of the material that I was unable to see in person. Of the 52 ‘microbiota’ files available from UEG Week 2014 that can be discovered in the library, 10 are video-recorded presentations. As I take a huge interest in the role of the gut microbiota in health and disease, I've been indulging in these to update myself with some of the most recent advances in the field. In one of his presentations at UEG Week 2014, Professor Antonio Gasbarrini starts out by asking several questions about the gut microbiota in relation to coeliac disease, an autoimmune enteropahty triggered by gluten proteins. Do patients with coeliac disease have a different gut microbiota to healthy people? Does the microbiota have a role in the pathogenesis of coeliac disease? Can a gluten-free diet (GFD) alter the composition of gut microbiota? He stresses that a GFD does alter the microbiota and that, in healthy individuals, just a few weeks on a GFD may in fact lead to a decrease in beneficial bacteria such as Bifidobacteria/Lactobacilli and an increase in Enterobacteriaceae, thus affecting immune-metabolic responses. Moreover, a decrease in short-chain fatty acids is seen, possibly conferring a decrease in the immunomodulatory role of the microbiota. It appears that an altered microbiota is a characteristic feature of coeliac disease, that Bifidobacteria is decreased, at least in children, along with upregulation of other bacterial species, while any causal link between microbiota composition and disease development remains to be established. At least one HLA genotype is known to select for early microbiota composition, so it is possible that this is in fact one of the mechanisms underlying the genetic component of the disease. As do so many other scientists nowadays, Professor Gasbarrini stresses that while it may be important to know the structure of the microbiome, it is probably more important to know about the function of the microbiome. He also stresses the importance of sampling by highlighting the fact that identification of microbial communities may differ in the same individual depending on whether analysis of faecal or bioptic samples (mucosal biopsies, for instance) has been performed. Regarding the function of the microbiome, there are two talks on the microbiota in the context of IBD by Professor Joël Doré, who expands on the existence of Crohn’s disease-specific signature genes that are much less abundant in Crohn’s disease patients than in healthy controls. However, single genes not being very informative, scientists of the MetaHIT Consortium recently took to ‘binning’ genes identified by metagenomic analysis of roughly 400 faecal samples into co-abundance gene groups (CAGs), enabling a comprehensive discovery of new microbial organisms, viruses and co-inherited genetic entities, and facilitating assembly of microbial genomes without the need for reference sequences.1 From these CAGs, a total of 741 metagenomic ‘units’ or ‘species’ could be derived, four of which have been identified as highly discriminatory identifiers of ulcerative colitis when compared with healthy individuals. In our lab, we have also been analysing these data, only with a view to identifying parasitic protist signatures rather than bacterial signatures in these CAGs, and we have just submitted our results for publication. Once the results are out, I’ll be back with more on this; it is safe to say already that we have found some very striking associations, with colonisation by certain parasitic protists being significantly linked to certain microbiota profiles and clinical phenotypes of study individuals. However, just like Professor Doré points out, in most cases we do not know whether such observations reflect causality or mere consequence; this is mostly due to the cross-sectional nature of such studies, but the prognostic/diagnostic value of such findings should, or course, be subject to scrutiny. Being one of the heavy mantras of recent years, Faecalibacterium prausnitzii has been shown to be a direct predictor of Crohn’s disease relapse following infliximab withdrawal. In one study, Crohn’s disease patients with F. prausnitzii levels above the median were less prone to relapse than those with F. prausnitzii levels below the median, indicating that F. prausnitzii may represent a predictive factor for relapse.2 Professor Doré highlights that this is a trend not only in Crohn’s disease but also in ulcerative colitis. In the second talk by Professor Doré, you can learn more about the anti-inflammatory properties conferred by F. prausnitzii and its potential applicability as a diagnostic/prognostic marker. Professor Doré also gave a presentation on diet as a major modulator of the gut microbiota. He included a very educational slide on the functions of the human intestinal microbiota that are essential to health and wellbeing, and a slide summarising the diseases conferred by low gut species richness/gene count, such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, IBS, obesity, Type-1 diabetes, Type-2 diabetes, coeliac disease, allergy and autism, etc., although the situation might not be entirely clear for coeliac disease, for example, as demonstrated by the talk by Professor Gasbarrini. In this talk, you can learn more about the so-called ‘enterotypes’, and you will find a few take-home messages regarding the impact of diet on microbiota development. Four of the video-recorded presentations are from the session “The role of microbiota in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease”. If terms such as ‘microbiota’, ‘microbiome’ and ‘metagenome’, scare you off, you are offered a useful introduction from Dr Alexander Moschen. And in case these conspicuous accomplishments have slipped your attention, in this talk you are also introduced to the famous and heavily cited mouse studies by Bäckhed and colleagues3 and Turnbaugh and colleagues4 on the influence of gut microbiota on energy uptake. For me, Dr Moschen delivers one of the big take-home messages in this series of presentations, which again relates to microbiota structure and function: just because different people have different microbiota, this may not mean that these microbiota do different things. Rather, different species assemblages appear to lead to similar functional profiles (i.e. the metabolic properties of a given microbiota can be more or less identical to those metabolic properties characteristic of a microbiota of a different composition). Focusing mainly on IBS, Dr Purna Kashyap presents studies showing that the gut microbiota can influence mechanisms characteristic of IBS, including gastrointestinal motility and secretion, visceral hypersensitivity and intestinal permeability, and that the microbiota influences entero-endocrine cells, stimulates the release of neurotransmitters like GABA, and mediates activation of immune cells, all affecting CNS function. Giving a thorough account of some of his own work too, Dr Kashyap shows that the effect of the gut microbiota on intestinal motility may in part be due to the effect on the host serotonergic system and that diet-related changes in microbiota fermentation products may alter host serotonergic pathways and gastrointestinal function. Finally, I would like to recommend the presentation “Probiotics and antibiotics in IBS: Do they work?”, which was delivered by Dr Viola Andresen. Dr Andresen summarizes data from randomized controlled trials on the effect of rifaximin on non-constipated IBS patients, which includes a significant improvement of particularly (refractory) bloating, but also stool consistency and global symptoms. There may be some uncertainty as to whether the effect of rifaximin in IBS patients is due to alleviation related to unidentified small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), and in general, the link between IBS and SIBO remains obscure, primarily due to a paucity of data. However, a study using animal experimental models that appeared in Gastroenterology almost a year ago proposed that rifaximin modulates the ileal bacterial community (leading to a relative abundance of Lactobacillus), reduces subclinical inflammation of the intestinal mucosa and improves gut barrier function to reduce visceral hypersensitivity.5 Although expensive, among its many advantages, rifaximin has few side effects, if any, and more studies on the use of this antibiotic in the management of functional bowel diseases are anticipated. The language of the intestinal microbiome is being developed. Deciphering its many signs and symbols requires patience, but hopefully, this will eventually provide us with the tools and knowledge necessary to manipulate the gut microbiota to prevent, alleviate and cure a variety of diseases and promote health. Presentations on the microbiota at UEG Week 2014 Gasbarrini A. Microbiota in coeliac disease. From New challenges in gluten sensitivity: From bench to bedside.  Dore J. Microbiota signatures in IBD. From IBD: What's new in 2014?  Dore J. Microbiota: The key player in IBD? From New insights into the pathophysiology of inflammatory bowel diseases.  Dore J. Diet: Major modulators of gut microbiota. From Diet, immunity and systemic disease.  Moschen AR. Microbiota composition in obesity and related disorders. From The role of microbiota in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).  Gasbarrini A. Antibiotics, pre- and probiotics in NAFLD. From The role of microbiota in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).  Tilg H. Innate immunity in NAFLD. From The role of microbiota in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).  Serino M. Metabolic infection. From The role of microbiota in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).  Kashyap P. Impact of gut microbiota on gut function and dysfunction. From Normal and abnormal cross-talk at the mucosal border: Relevance for GI function and dysfunction.  Andresen V. Probiotics and antibiotics in IBS: Do they work? From Altered intestinal microbiota composition in IBS: Does it affect clinical practice?  References
  1. Nielsen HB, Almeida M, Juncker AS, et al. Identification and assembly of genomes and genetic elements in complex metagenomic samples without using reference genomes. Nat Biotechnol 2014; 32: 822–828. 
  2. Rajca S, Grondin V, Louis E, et al. Alterations in the intestinal microbiome (dysbiosis) as a predictor of relapse after infliximab withdrawal in Crohn's disease. Inflamm Bowel Dis 2014; 20: 978-986. 
  3. Bäckhed F, Ding H, Wang T, et al. The gut microbiota as an environmental factor that regulates fat storage. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 2004; 101: 15718–15723.
  4. Turnbaugh PJ, Ley RE, Mahowald MA, et al. An obesity-associated gut microbiome with increased capacity for energy harvest. Nature 2006; 444: 1027–1031. 
  5. Xu D, Gao J, Gillilland M 3rd, et al. Rifaximin alters intestinal bacteria and prevents stress-induced gut inflammation and visceral hyperalgesia in rats. Gastroenterology 2014; 146: 484–496. 

Postgraduate Course on the road from inflammation to cancer in the upper GI tract

During the Polish Society of Gastroenterology Congress in September 2014, EAGEN and EHMSG (formerly known as EHSG) held the joint Postgraduate Course "The road from inflammation to cancer in the upper GI tract." The aim of the course was to share knowledge and experience in this increasingly relevant field, with the participation of speakers from high-end specialty European centres, EAGEN and EHMSG. Recordings from each individual session of the course can now be found in the UEG Education library.

The Postgraduate Course was opened by Professor Jaroslaw Regula and was interactive in nature, including discussion time after the sessions and voting on questions posed by the speakers regarding the clinical cases presented.1 The relevance of inflammation leading to cancer was reinforced by Professor Peter Malfertheiner, who reported that infections leading to cancer are responsible for one out of every five cancer deaths worldwide.1 Session 1 began with an introductory lecture from Professor Tomica Milosavljević, who provided a general perspective on the inflammation and cancer axis.2 He started with the history of the field, addressing the two paradigms of the link between inflammation and cancer—chronic inflammation (extrinsic) and intratumoural inflammation (intrinsic)—as well as the molecular events and pathways regulating this axis. Professor Colm O’Morain delivered a case-based lecture, discussing therapeutic strategies to eradicate Helicobacter pylori and raising awareness of eosinophilic oesophagitis.3 Professor Lars Lundell adressed GORD, considering management and risk factors for progression, presenting and discussing two clinical cases.4 Next, Professor Heinz Hammer delivered a talk on food impaction.5 He guided the audience through the possible causes, criteria for endoscopic intervention and methods for removing impacted food. Eosinophilic oesophagitis and oesophageal eosinophilia were also discussed and an overview of treatment options provided. Dr. Jochen Weigt, presenting a case of Barrett’s esophageal cancer and dysplasia, initiated session 2.6 His presentation addressed the rationale for staging, problems with staging procedures, and treatment options, raising the discussion of the true value of chromoendoscopy (acetic acid staining) versus dedicated white-light high-definition endoscopy. Next, Professor Juan Malagelada presented two cases of dyspepsia, addressing diagnostic approaches, prevalence and also the pathophysiology of functional dyspepsia.7 He also covered the associated abdominal manifestations and putative influencing factors, as well as therapy for functional dyspepsia. Dr. Tamara Matysiak-Budnik completed session 2, by presenting three clinical cases of gastric malignancy, underscoring the relevance of early detection and the importance of multimodality treatment.8 The Healthy Stomach Initiative, which is striving to spread preventive measures for greater stomach health throughout the world, was also promoted. Session 3, the final session of the course, started with a lecture by Dr. Gunther Krejs on the topic of familial gastric cancer, providing clinical and practical advice.9 Next, Professor Malfertheiner delivered a lecture on “Helicobacter pylori and cancer: what studies are needed?”10 He indicated that we are currently still challenged by H. pylori and its consequences, highlighting the need for further studies. Professor Malfertheiner stressed that in both less developed and also in more developed regions of the world, H. pylori is the most frequent infectious agent ultimately leading to cancer, and remains as the most important risk factor for gastric cancer. The lecture also covered the general pathophysiology of gastric adenocarcinoma, atrophic gastritis and the assessment of risk of gastric cancer development, and the pathways from H. pylori infection to gastric cancer. Importantly, Professor Malfertheiner proposed several basic and clinical studies needed in this context, concluding with the message being promoted by the Healthy Stomach Initiative that what is needed is a healthy stomach that is H. pylori free. Presentations at "The road from inflammation to cancer in the upper GI tract" EAGEN and EHMSG Postgraduate Course
  1. Malfertheiner P and Regula J. Welcome. 
  2. Milosavljević T. Introductory lecture: the road from inflammation to cancer. 
  3. O’Morain C. Case based lecture: patient with heartburn: history, endoscopy, medical/interventional therapy. 
  4. Lundell L. Case based lecture: patient with severe reflux: history, diagnostic work-up, therapy. 
  5. Hammer H. Case based lecture: patient with oesophageal food impaction. 
  6. Weigt J. Case based lecture: Patient with Barrett oesophagus and cancer – history, endoscopy, medical/interventional therapy. 
  7. Malagelada J. Case based lecture: Patient with dyspeptic symptoms – how does the stomach signal discomfort and disease. History, diagnosis, endoscopy, medical/interventional therapy. 
  8. Matysiak-Budnik T. Case based lecture: Patients with gastric malignancies: history, diagnosis, endoscopy, medical/interventional therapy. 
  9. Krejs G. Case based lecture: Familial gastric cancer – clinical and practical advices. 
  10. Malfertheiner P. Helicobacter pylori and cancer: what studies are needed? 

Highlights of the ESPGHAN Pediatric Hepatology Summer School 2014

ESPGHAN aims to promote the health of children, focusing on the gastrointestinal tract, liver and nutritional status. Since its foundation in 1968, ESPGHAN has been engaging scientific exchange among trainees, young doctors and scientists involved in paediatric gastroenterology, hepatology and nutrition, by means of summer schools, research forums and workshops. The 2014 Pedriatric Hepatology Summer School, which was organized by Professor Pietro Vajro and the ESPGHAN Hepatology Committee, focused on the latest multidisciplinary approaches for the diagnosis and management of paediatric hepatobiliary disorders.

Several recordings from this year’s Pedriatric Hepatology Summer School are now available in the UEG Education library. They include state-of-the-art lectures, specifically tailored for the paediatric hepatologist, on: liver development, anatomy and biology by Professor Stefania Nori;1 liver function tests by Doctor Valerio Nobili;2 and gene therapy for inherited liver diseases by Professor Nicola Brunetti-Pierri.3 Also featured is a collection of recordings on cholestasis, introduced by Professor Thierry Lamireau.4 He explains that cholestasis is thought to affect between 1/2,500 to 1/5,000 neonates, being much more frequent in premature babies, with causes being extrahepatic, intrahepatic or even both. Intrahepatic cholestasis can be triggered by infection or by a wide range of genetic, metabolic and endocrinological factors. In his presentation, Professor Lamireau showcases step-by-step practical biological and clinical procedures for the diagnosis and treatment of each pathology.5 In turn, biliary atresia is the main pathology leading to extrahepatic cholestasis. Professor Björn Fischler illustrates disease pathogenesis and the multiple problems associated with the currently available surgical treatment for extrahepatic cholestasis, highlighting the importance of screening procedures for early diagnosis.6 So, how should cholestasis be managed? Professor Fischler addresses this issue, starting by outlining the consequences of ongoing cholestasis, namely the lack of bile acids in the gut and the retention of toxic hydrophobic bile acids in the liver, and then moving on to the specific management of cholestasis and malnutrition, as well as cholestatic pruritus.7 At the 2014 Summer School, Dr Alex Knisely hosted an interactive voting session on clinical cholestasis cases.8 He introduced the special problems in early life that may lead to cholestasis and the challenges of taking biopsy samples in young infants, before moving to the presentation and discussion of five different clinical cases based on biological and biochemical analyses, as well as liver biopsies. Dr Danièle Pariente’s presentation provides an extended and comprehensive overview of paediatric hepatology imaging modalities, namely ultrasonography, computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging.9 She addresses each modality’s advantages and drawbacks, as well as indications and limits, in parallel with the presentation of clinical cases. Dr Pariente then goes on to define the imaging strategies in neonates and children in cases of cholestasis (with practical examples on cholelithiasis, choledochal cysts, neonatal cholestasis, biliary atresia); portal hypertension (extrahepatic portal vein obstruction, wedged cirrhosis, congenital hepatic fibrosis, obliterative portal venopathy and Budd-Chiari Syndrome); and liver tumors (hepatoblastoma; hepatic hemangioma; focal nodular hyperplasia; adenomas).   In the final presentation from this series, Professor Fischler discusses hepatitis B, highlighting the large prevalence of this disease in children, particularly in developing and more-heavily populated countries.10 He also considers the challenges of effective vaccination as a preventative measure. Four clinical cases are presented and discussed. If you’d like to discover more paediatric hepatology content from ESPGHAN, please feel free to browse the UEG Education Library, which includes presentations from the ESPGHAN 2013 Summer School and Liver Conference, as well as its 46th Annual Meeting, also held in 2013. Presentations at ESPGHAN Pediatric Hepatology Summer School 2014
  1. Nori S. The liver and the hepatobiliary tree: Development, anatomy and biology issues for the pediatric hepatologist. 
  2. Nobili V. Common LFTs in pediatric Hepatology. 
  3. Brunetti-Pierri N. Gene therapy for inherited liver diseases. 
  4. Lamireau T. Cholestasis: Generalities. 
  5. Lamireau T. Focus on INTRA-hepatic cholestasis. 
  6. Fischler B. Focus on EXTRA-hepatic cholestasis. 
  7. Fischler B. Cholestasis: Management. 
  8. Knisely A. Clinical Cases and Interactive Voting Session. 
  9. Pariente D. Interactive Overview in Pediatric Hepatology Imaging. 
  10. Fischler B. Chronic Viral Hepatitis B.

FMT: balancing scientific success with successful regulation

Eww! If the thought of gulping down helminth eggs in an effort to mitigate the symptoms of IBD, psoriasis and other autoimmune diseases wasn’t unpalatable enough, we now face the reality of having someone else’s faeces fertilizing our guts! Nevertheless, it appears that the incentive for using these types of ‘paleo’ therapeutic approaches is increasing, driven mainly by problems related to antimicrobial resistance, faltering immunological pathways and intestinal dysbiosis, all of which may be intrinsically linked. Meanwhile, authorities are struggling to develop regulations in the face of multiple trials supporting the efficacy of faecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) for the treatment of recurrent Clostridium difficile infections (CDI).

A few weeks ago, @Liz_Atchley uttered on Twitter “If I'm ever in need of a fecal transplant, just let me die”. Same week, @beardbrain went ‘"There Is No ‘Healthy’ Microbiome". So don't get that fashionable fecal transplant unless you really need it!”’ The last tweet refers to an article that appeared in the New York Times.1 What the article actually said was that it appears that there is no single healthy microbiome, that the microbiome in each individual may undergo dynamic changes, and that perfectly healthy people may differ greatly in terms of microbiota structure and diversity. In fact, each of us appears to have a unique gut microbiome that may, however, be perturbed (e.g. by antimicrobials or certain types of diets), leading to disease, possibly including metabolic syndrome. Meanwhile, there is solid scientific evidence that some patient groups, especially patients with recurrent CDI, benefit from FMT aiming to correct intestinal dysbiosis—microbiota alterations—by instilling fecal microorganisms from a healthy individual into the intestine of a patient. In the US, a total of 15%—20% of antibiotic-related cases of diarrhea and most cases of pseudomembranous colitis can be attributed to CDI, which is involved in three million cases of diarrhea and colitis per year, with many thousands succumbing to infection.2 Recurrence of CDI appears to be common, affecting around 15%—20% of cases. In their current CDI guidelines, The European Society for Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (ESCMID) recommends the use of FMT rather than vancomycin or fidaxomicin in patients who have experienced at least two CDI recurrences (i.e. three CDI episodes in a single patient).3,4 The EAGEN Gut Microbiota 2014 meeting took place in Rome in September, and some of the talks are now available in the UEG Education Library (please see below for the list of presentations). In one of the presentations, Dr Luca Pani from the Italian Medicines Agency not only ‘brutally’ explains the bread and butter of FMT and dishes out compelling facts on FMT success rates, but also expands on the vast potential applicability of FMT, which may prove valuable in preventing, mitigating, and/or treating complex disorders, such as multiple sclerosis, colorectal cancer, metabolic syndrome and disorders stemming from imbalances in the gut–brain axis.2 Moreover, Dr Pani importantly touches upon the intricate issues related to regulating FMT procedures, and asks several important questions. Should food and drug administrations control FMTs? Who are the FMT manufacturers? How about donor exclusions and testing of donor stool—which of the 40,000 species in stool should we allow to enter the recipient? Can single ‘active ingredients’ be identified or does the success of FMT rely on the combined actions/influence of diverse microbial communities? There have been discussions about whether FMTs are in fact tissue transplants or medicines, and there is also a continuum of varieties of FMT, from the infusion of donor faeces screened for pathogens prior to administration, to cocktails of enteric bacteria specifically chosen for and selectively grown on agar plates. Are we talking full-spectrum microbiota or defined microbiota ecosystems? Instead of FMT, are we moving towards ‘Next-Generation Microbiota Therapeutics’5 such as ‘RePOOPulate’, a synthetic stool produced by a ‘Robogut’6? Apparently, FMT regulations vary from being very strict, such as those developed by the US FDA, to being more or less absent in most other countries. In Austria, FMT is regarded as a therapeutic intervention that is not to be considered a pharmaceutical drug and is therefore exempt from regulation by the Austrian Medicines Act.4 As Dr Pani explains, the statistics on FMT for successfully treating C. difficile infections are clear—no need for P values anymore.2 Success stories keep coming in, which will eventually make FMT more palatable to the general public, and so it probably won’t be long before FMT will be triaged by health care professionals, medical companies, and national FDA agencies. Efforts aiming to relax regulations and ensure standardization as much as possible will be crucial in order to reduce the incidence of DIY-related mishaps and to quickly gain more insight into the therapeutic potential of FMT. Hungry for more? Then why not sit back and update yourself on FMT constituents, indications, feasibility, safety, practicality, and regulations, and—maybe first and foremost—examples of professional experience with FMT by having a look at the accepted articles section in Clinical Microbiology and Infection. I also recommend watching the talk on FMT and recurrent CDI by Lawrence Brandt given at the Gut Microbiota for Health 2nd World Summit.7
References
  1. Yong E. There Is No ‘Healthy’ Microbiome. The New York Times. November 1, 2014.
  2. Pani L. Microbial transplantation as a new therapy option in medicine: The views of the Italian Medicines Agency (AIFA). Opening lecture at EAGAN Gut Microbiota 2014.
  3. Debast SB, Bauer MP, Kuijper EJ, et al. European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases: Update of the treatment guidance document for Clostridium difficile infection. Clin Microbiol Infect 2014; 20 (Suppl 2):1–26
  4. Kump PK, Krause R, Allerberger F, et al. Fecal microbiota transplantation—the Austrian approach. Clin Microbiol Infect Epub ahead of print 1 October 2014. DOI: 10.1111/1469-0691.12801
  5. Petrof EO and Khoruts A. From stool transplants to next-generation microbiota therapeutics. Gastroenterology 2014; 146; 1573–1582
  6. Petrof EO, Gloor GB, Vanner SJ, et al. Stool substitute transplant therapy for the eradication of Clostridium difficile infection: ‘RePOOPulating’ the gut. Microbiome 2013; 1:3
  7. Brandt L. Fecal Transplantation for the treatment of Clostridium difficile infection. Presentation at the Gut Microbiota for Health 2nd World Summit Madrid 2013.
EAGEN Gut Microbiota 2014 Presentations Pani L. Microbial transplantation as a new therapy option in medicine: the views of the Italian Medicines Agency (AIFA).  Putignani L. Gut bacteriome—Gut aerobs.  Delogu G. Gut bacteriome—Gut anaerobs.  Langella P. Gut bacteriome—Focus on Fecalibacterium prausnitziiCani P. Gut bacteriome—Focus on Akkermansia muciniphilia. Ianiro G. Gut mycome. Bruno R. Gut virome.  Gasbarrini A. The intestinal barrier in different physiological and pathological conditions.  Barbara G. Consequences of increased intestinal permeability.  Lopetuso L. Esophageal gastric barrier. Further UEG Education Resources Surawicz CM. Regulatory and safety issues. Presentation from Faecal microbial transplantation: An old therapy comes of age at UEG Week 2014 Mattila E. FMT for Clostridium difficile infection. Presentation from Faecal microbial transplantation: An old therapy comes of age at UEG Week 2014 Vermeire S. Modulation of the Intestinal Microbiota by Faecal Transplantation: What Can We Expect? Keynote Lecture at ESPGHAN Conference 2013. Further Reading Brandt LJ. American Journal of Gastroenterology Lecture: Intestinal microbiota and the role of fecal microbiota transplant (FMT) in treatment of C. difficile infection. Am J Gastroenterol 2013; 108: 177–185. DOI:10.1038/ajg.2012.450 Kapel N, Thomas M, Corcos O et al. Practical implementation of faecal transplantation. Clin Microbiol Infect Epub ahead of print 1 October 2014. DOI: 10.1111/1469-0691.12796 Kelly CR, Kunde SS and Khoruts A. Guidance on preparing an investigational new drug application for fecal microbiota transplantation studies. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2014; 12: 283–288 Lagier JC. Fecal microbiota transplantation: from practices to legislation before considering industrialization. Clin Microbiol Infect Epub ahead of print 1 October 2014. DOI: 10.1111/1469-0691.12795 Singh R, Nieuwdorp M, Ten Berge IJ, et al. The potential beneficial role of faecal microbiota transplantation in diseases other than Clostridium difficile infection. Clin Microbiol Infect Epub ahead of print 7 November 2014. DOI: 10.1111/1469-0691.12799.

HCV treatment in the post-transplant setting:

Developing niche markets for therapy.

Patients who have active hepatitis C at the time of liver transplantation invariably become re-infected, with the subsequent risk of graft failure. The side effects of interferon (IFN)-based therapies are significant, hence the drive to develop new and effective therapies. Two recent studies have looked at the role of two different IFN-free regimes for the treatment of post-transplant patients infected with HCV.

Charlton et al. studied the role of the NS5B polymerase inhibitor sofosbuvir and ribavirin given for 24 weeks for the treatment of HCV patients post-liver transplantation.1 The 40 patients included in the study were infected with a mixture of HCV genotypes (GT): 29 (73%) GT1a, 22 (55%) GT1b, 6 (15%) GT3 and 1 GT4. A total of 16 patients (40%) were classified as having cirrhosis. Overall, an SVR12 (sustained virologic response at week 12 post-treatment; representative of successful viral clearance) was achieved in 70% of patients; viral eradication was successful in 73% of GT1a patients, 55% of GT1b patients and 100% of GT3 patients. It was the single patient infected with HCV GT4 who failed to achieve an SVR12. There were no episodes of graft failure or rejection, with no significant study-related side effects. Some modification of the immunosuppressants tacrolimus and ciclosporin was required, but not in all cases. Kwo et al. looked at the benefit of the ABT-450/r (ritonavir), ombitasvir, dasbuvir and ribavirin regime, given for 24 weeks to GT1-infected patients post-liver transplantation.2 ABT-450/r is a ritonavir-boosted protease inhibitor, ombitasvir is an NS5A inhibitor and dasabuvir is a non-nucleoside NSB5 polymerase inhibitor. In combination with ribavirin, this regime has produced favourable outcomes in phase 3 trials in GT1-infected non-transplant patients.3,4 34 patients (29 infected with HCV GT1a and 5 with GT1b) were enrolled in the study by Kwo and colleagues. No patients with cirrhosis were included. Overall, an SVR12 was achieved in 97% of the treatment group, with 100% seen in the GT1b cohort, and 1 patient who relapsed in the GT1a cohort (97%). Again, no cases of graft failure or rejection were seen, and most adverse events were mild to moderate. All patients had their baseline tacrolimus and ciclosporin dosing modified, but there was no mention of any undue long-term effects resulting from this modification. Both of these studies included a small number of patients, who were heterogenous with regard to their baseline characteristics. For this reason, no firm conclusions can be drawn. However, the SVR rates achieved are encouraging, as are the tolerability and drug–drug interaction profiles, and most importantly the absence of graft rejection or failure. Treatment options and combinations have progressed rapidly since these studies were designed. The latest EASL guidelines recommend the use of sofosbuvir with either daclatasvir or simeprevir for post-transplant patients (excluding those with GT2 disease).5 The ABT-450 regime is at yet unlicensed, and it is unclear how commissioning bodies will decide which therapies are cost-effective based on the many therapeutic options now available. What seems certain though is that the next year will see research focused at targeting special populations (e.g. those with HIV co-infection or renal failure) and hard-to-treat groups (e.g. those with GT3 infection), with the aim being to target new, niche markets. References
  1. Charlton M, Gane E, Manns MP, et al. Sofosbuvir and ribavirin for treatment of compensated recurrent hepatitis c virus infection after liver transplantation. Gastroenterology Epub ahead of print 7 October 2014. DOI:10.1053/j.gastro.2014.10.001.
  2. Kwo PY, Mantry PS, Coakley E, et al. An interferon-free antiviral regimen for HCV after liver transplantation. N Engl J Med Epub ahead of print 11 November 2014. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1408921. 
  3. Feld J, Kowley KV, Coakley, E et al. Treatment of HCV with ABT-450/r-ombitasvir and dasbuvir with ribavirin. N Engl J Med 2014; 370: 1594–1603.
  4. Poordad F, Hezode C, Trinh R, et al. ABT-450/r-ombitasvir and dasabuvir with ribavirin for hepatitis c with cirrhosis. N Engl J Med 2014, 370: 1973–1982.
  5. EASL. EASL Recommendations on Treatment of Hepatitis C 2014, http://files.easl.eu/easl-recommendations-on-treatment-of-hepatitis-C/index.html (2014, accessed 9 December 2014). 

Medical mishaps

… mistakes also happen when providing health care.

Mistakes happen. This is the reason why my Volvo has large rubber bumpers and why pencils have rubbers. Indeed, I, amongst many others, may have been born for this very reason. It has long been recognised that mistakes also happen when providing health care. Of course, there are lots of reasons that such mistakes occur, including sleep deprivation, being rushed, having illegible hand writing, delivering complex care, language barriers and treating elderly patients who have lots of interacting comorbidities.

Estimates vary, but the now famous Harvard Study concluded that 1% of hospital admissions result in an adverse event.1 I must admit to being sceptical about this figure, which would equate to more Americans being killed in US hospitals every 6 months than died in the entire Vietnam War. By contrast, on ward rounds it is clear to me that what actually kills people is being old, frail and diseased. And herein lies the root of my scepticism. The study takes no account of the expected risk of death in the absence of a medical error. A rarely quoted study by Hayward and Hofer,2 tried to examine care more objectively. The authors derived three interesting and illuminating conclusions. First, most deaths reportedly due to medical errors occurred at the end of life or in critically ill patients in whom death was likely regardless of the care received. Indeed, two-thirds of cases reviewed in their study had a "do-not-resuscitate" order in place at the time of death. Second, the level of agreement that a death was 'preventable' was poor (kappa value 0.25). The authors concluded, "…most of the 'errors' identified represent outlier opinions in cases in which the median reviewer believed either that an error did not occur or that it had little or no effect on the outcome." They dryly commented that if there were a large enough reviewer panel, there would always be someone of the opinion that each death was preventable. Third, the probability that an error definitely had contributed to a death was considered rare. The reviewing clinicians estimated that only 0.5% (95% CI, 0.3–0.7%) of patients who died would have lived an extra 3 months if their care had been optimal. This would represent roughly 1 patient per 10,000 admissions to the seven Veterans Affairs medical centres included in the study. The above conclusions will not be surprising to doctors who look after patients. But surely we should always be alert and pounce on every medical mishap to continuously improve practices and reduce the risk of further errors? The hunt for hospital mishaps may, however, have unforeseen consequences. I am aware of three problematic issues. The first issue is that identifying particular patterns of care that result in truly preventable deaths is difficult. It's far easier to identify 'minor' problems and the 'minor' individual responsible. For this reason nursing staff are the most frequently reprimanded team members. Paradoxically, nurses are the least likely not to internalise the reprimand and forgive themselves, and are the most likely to become depressed afterwards. I have seen nurses leave our NHS after a reprimand. There is already a national shortage of nurses because young people don’t want to spend a lifetime working shifts, doing physically and emotionally draining jobs in a punitive environment that comes down hard on every mistake. Qualified nurses don't need a push through the door; they are already leaving frontline services for less demanding jobs in the private sector. Personally, I regret not going into the financial sector where, for example, bringing your bank into financial ruin or the whole world into deep recession is rewarded with a warm handshake and a fat pension. Trying to fix problems in complex settings using hindsight and anecdotes is the second issue as it may lead to processes that worsen care. British nurses now seem to spend more time completing care plans and paperwork than directly caring for patients. To reduce prescription errors, we now have a bewildering 6-page colour coded prescription chart with a myriad of tiny boxes to prescribe anything from oxygen, to compression stockings, to drugs, with ample opportunity to get confused and make a mistake. In my opinion, almost all processes that are put in place to reduce risk, result in an increase in the complexity and time it takes to achieve the task. Surely, the reverse should be the case? Never before in the history of medicine have so many patients with so much disease been given such complex care by so few nurses within such a short space of time! The third and final issue is the overestimation of life expectancy. It is often lamented that doctors overestimate the life expectancy of their patients, but sick patients and their relatives have even more unrealistic expectations—they don't expect to die at all! Paradoxically, it is the elderly who have the least to gain from receiving numerous medical interventions, are the most likely to suffer an adverse event and the least likely to survive when something goes wrong. In spite of all this, when the 'unexpected' happens, it is presumed that it must be due to an error. The creeping mistrust is fuelled by our medical obligation to disclose every medical mishap. The relatives of an octogenarian who succumbs to a hospital acquired infection after a hip replacement will have little doubt that, "The reason my grandfather died was because the nurse didn't dress his wound on time/he didn't get his tablets in the evening/the hospital gave him pneumonia." How can we continuously reduce errors, encourage more young people to become healthcare professionals and provide sufficient time to complete every task, whilst encouraging the elderly to be realistic in their expectations? Unfortunately, this is a circle that cannot easily be squared. In the future, health care will undoubtedly be provided by robots! References 
  1. Brennan TA, Leape LL, Laird NM et al. Incidence of Adverse Events and Negligence in Hospitalized Patients — Results of the Harvard Medical Practice Study I. NEJM 1991; 324: 370–376.
  2. Hayward RA and Hofer TP. Estimating hospital deaths due to medical errors: preventability is in the eye of the reviewer. JAMA 2001; 286: 415–420. 

Can't get to the caecum! Now what?

Colon capsule endoscopy versus CT colonography.

Endoscopists usually resort to performing CT colonography (CTC) in cases of incomplete colonoscopy. Colon capsule endoscopy (CCE) is a new technique that has potential advantages over CTC.

Achieving a caecal intubation rate >90% is an essential requirement for demonstrating competency in colonoscopy. However, even the more experienced endoscopist who routinely achieves a higher caecal intubation rate occasionally encounters problems. Being unable to reach the caecum could be due to patient-related factors, such as previous abdominal or pelvic surgery, unusual anatomy and pain threshold. As up to 50% of colonic neoplasia develop in the proximal colon, caecal intubation with adequate mucosal visualization is mandatory before colonic pathology can be excluded. Options for failed or incomplete colonoscopy involve using a different technique to repeat the procedure (e.g. using a gastroscope if there is troublesome sigmoid diverticular disease or using a more pliable paediatric colonoscope). However, CTC has been endorsed by the AGA as the ideal next step for cases of incomplete colonoscopy. Spada and colleagues from the Catholic University in Rome, compared the performance of CCE with CTC after incomplete colonoscopy in a small, but prospective, single-blind trial that enrolled 100 patients.1 All patients underwent both CCE and CTC on the same day. CCE was always performed first and a second attempt at colonoscopy was performed in patients who had a positive finding. The primary end point in this study was the per-patient diagnostic yield of CCE and CTC for ≥6 mm polyps/mass undetected by previously incomplete colonoscopy. Post-CCE/CTC colonoscopy was used as the gold standard. Secondary end points were completion rate, rate of missed cancer at 1-year clinical follow up, level of bowel preparation and safety. For polyps ≥6mm, Spada et al. showed a two-fold increase in the diagnostic yield of CCE compared with CTC (24.5% versus 12.2%). However, there was no difference in the detection rate for lesions >10mm. The higher sensitivity of CCE was not associated with higher false-positive results. Both techniques were comparable in terms of completion rate and safety; neither method missed a cancer on follow up. Though the study has some limitations (single center, possible false negatives with both techniques, exclusion of patients with poor bowel preparation and strictures), it shows that the detection and characterization of smaller lesions is possible with CCE. CCE may, therefore, be an option for patients with incomplete colonoscopy. References
  1. Spada C, Hassan C, Barbaro B, et al. Colon capsule versus CT colonography in patients with incomplete colonoscopy: a prospective, comparative trial. Published Online First 24 June 2014. Gut doi:10.1136/gutjnl-2013-306550.
Further UEG Education Resources 
  1. Colon Capsule Demo. Presentation by Dirk Hartmann at UEG Week Berlin 2013 
  2. Colon Capsule Endoscopy: Could it become a gold standard? Presentation by Cristiano Spada at UEG Week Berlin 2013
  3. Colon Capsule: Any indication? Presentation by Cristiano Spada at UEG Week Barcelona 2012

Decide on the Spot!

60 seconds to make the correct decision.

A 16 year old severely handicapped boy is referred for a PEG as he has become increasingly difficult to feed without regurgitation and vomiting.

The PEG is scheduled to be carried out under general anaesthesia. At the procedure, this stricture is unexpectedly found in the low oesophagus. You can not traverse the stricture with your diagnostic 9.8mm endoscope.

WHAT WOULD YOU DO NEXT? 
a) abandon the procedure and refer the case back to the original team
b) refer for a radiologically placed percutaneous feeding tube
c) dilate the stricture but not place a PEG
d) reintubate with a superslim endoscope and place a PEG
e) dilate the stricture and place a standard PEG feeding tube
This is a recent "real case" of mine!  Endoscopy is unforgiving. You now have 60 seconds to make the correct decision. Any further consideration will come across as "dithering" to the attending anaesthetic and endoscopic team. If you make the wrong decision, the report will become a testimony to your poor judgement which will be placed in the patient records for eternity ...
You have 50 seconds left to decide .

SVR: 24, 12 or maybe 4?

A shortened SVR time point with sofosbuvir?

How long does it take to determine whether the treatment for chronic hepatitis C (HCV) has been successful? In the past, patients had to wait 24 weeks to assess whether they had achieved a sustained virological response (SVR24). A recent article by Yoshida et al. looks at the data to support using a shortened SVR time point with sofosbuvir, in the new wave of HCV treatments.

The traditional wait for 6 months following a demanding treatment regime to see if it has been successful is clearly unsatisfactory. Over the past few years there has been a move towards using a 12-week post-treatment marker as a predictor of long-term viral eradication (SVR12). The use of this time point has been endorsed by regulatory authorities for drug development,1 and features in the latest EASL guidelines on HCV.2 However, the high concordance in SVR rates at 12 and 24 weeks has principally been obtained from interferon (IFN)-based studies. Data are limited for the new direct-acting antivirals, which is a shortcoming in the IFN-free era that we are now entering. The study by Yoshida et al. provides welcome insight into this area, confirming good concordance rates for viral eradication with sofosbuvir at both 4 and 12 weeks compared with the standard 24 weeks.3 This is encouraging because the oral HCV polymerase inhibitor sofosbuvir is integral to most new drug regimes for the treatment of chronic hepatitis C. In their retrospective analysis, Yoshida and colleagues pooled data on SVR rates from 863 patients involved in phase 3 trials of sofosbuvir. The treatment cohort included treatment naive and experienced patients who were infected with HCV genotype 1, 2 or 3 (a handful were infected with HCV genotype 4–6). Patients infected with HCV genotype 1 received IFN in addition to sofosbuvir and ribavirin, whereas those infected with HCV genotype 2 or 3 received sofosbuvir and ribavirin therapy alone. Concordance rates were similar across all genotypes, and between IFN and non-IFN regimes. In all, 98% of patients who achieved an SVR at week 4 also achieved an SVR at week 12, and 99.7% of those with an SVR at week 12 achieved viral eradication at 24 weeks. However, about 10% of all patients in the trials relapsed post-treatment. Most relapses occurred by post-treatment week 4, but many other relapses occurred between week 4 and 12 of follow up, with only a minority (2.3%) occurring after week 12. The authors therefore conclude that an SVR4 can be unreliable and that SVR12 is preferable. One of the reasons this study stood out to me was my experience seeing the same relapse pattern at week 12 in a patient who was treated with one of the new oral-based regimes. Despite having a fantastic response throughout treatment and up to week 4, I had to break the news that he had relapsed at week 12 and consequently failed his third course of treatment. As yet, little is known to be able to explain to patients why this happens, and patients infected with HCV genotype 3 seem to be uniquely hard to treat, with disappointing cure rates in clinical trials when compared with patients infected with the other genotypes. Data from the Early Access Programme in the UK, and from other compassionate use programmes of the new oral HCV treatments, are eagerly awaited. Hopefully these data will provide an improved understanding of the real-world responses to treatment and better predictors of viral response.  References 
  1. Chen J, Florian J, Carter W, et al. Earlier sustained virological response end points for regulatory approval and dose selection of hepatitis C therapies; Gastroenterology 2013; 144: 1450–1455.
  2. EASL Recommendations on Treatment of Hepatitis C 2014, http://files.easl.eu/easl-recommendations-on-treatment-of-hepatitis-C/index.html (2014, accessed 13 November 2014).
  3. Yoshida EM, Sulkowski MS, Gane EJ, et al. Concordance of sustained virological response 4, 12 and 24 weeks post-treatment with sofosbuvir-containing regimes for hepatitis C virus. Hepatology. Epub ahead of print 14 October 2014. DOI: 10.1002/hep.27366
Further UEG Education Resources 
  1. The new drugs for HCV: Can we achieve interferon-free HCV treatment? Presentation by Christophe Hezode at UEG Week Berlin 2013.

Treatment failure in patients with chronic hepatitis E

Are we a step forward?

Ribavirin (RBV) is used for the treatment of patients with chronic hepatitis E, but RBV is associated with treatment failure and associated mortality. A new in vitro study identifies a virulence mutation in the hepatitis E virus (HEV) genome that may explain why treatment failures occur.

Awareness and detection of acute HEV infection is increasing, including in some regions where the infection was hitherto thought to be rare.1 Indeed, HEV is now thought to be most common cause of acute viral hepatitis. Most infected individuals remain asymptomatic and in most symptomatic patients the infection clears spontaneously; however, patients with chronic liver disease or haematological malignancies, solid organ recipients and other immunocompromised patients are at risk of developing a chronic HEV infection. Debing et al. studied the blood samples of 15 solid organ recipients with a chronic HEV infection who were treated with RBV, which is generally the treatment of choice.2 Two patients did not respond to treatment and one of them died. In both nonresponders, a nucleotide substitution was detected that resulted in a G1634R mutation in the C-terminal region of the HEV polymerase. To further assess the significance of this mutation, the 1634R mutation was introduced into a HEV genotype 3 replicon. RBV sensitivity did not differ between the 1634R construct and the wild-type replicon, but the luminescence signals yielded by the 1634R construct were consistently higher than those yielded by the wild-type replicon, suggesting that viral replication was increased. Similar observations were made when two hepatoma cell lines were transfected with 1634R, 1634K (the predominant amino acid at this position in genotype 1 HEV) or wild-type replicons. Quantification of viral RNA released from transfected Huh7 cells showed that 1634R and 1634K variants replicated to higher titres than the wild type at every time point. Finally, the fitness of G1634 and 1634R variants was assessed using direct competition assays. This demonstrated a relative fitness gain for 1634R of 7–9%. This study provides the first evidence of a viral polymerase mutation that contributes to increased HEV replication. Although there was no difference in RBV sensitivity, the authors suggest that it is the increased viral replication that leads to treatment failure. This is not entirely unexpected. In an abstract presented at UEG Week 2012, viral load was linked with the risk of acute liver failure.3 Another area of the HEV genome under scrutiny in relation to acute liver failure is the region encoding capsid proteins; the occurrence of nucleotide substitutions in this region was studied in another abstract presented at UEG Week 2013.4 The study by Debing et al. raises further questions. Could mutations at the 1634 locus help predict the outcomes of patients with a chronic HEV infection? Would combination antiviral therapy benefit these patients or should they be offered one of the newer antivirals? The current study is probably one of the first steps in the quest to find the answers.    References
  1. Salunke SS, Hunt AC, Laing RB, et al. Hepatitis E: An emerging infection in North of Scotland? Gut 2013;62:A186.
  2. Debing Y, Gisa A, Dalleier K, et al. A mutation in the hepatitis E virus RNA polymerase promotes its replication and associates with Ribavirin treatment failure in organ transplant recipients. Gastroenterology 2014; 147:1008–1011.e7. 
  3. Borkakoti J, Hazam RK, Kar P, et al. Viral load of hepatitis E virus: a key agent in acute liver failure during pregnancy. Gut 2012;61 (Suppl 3):A36.
  4. Borkakoti J, Ahmed G and Kar P. Nucleotide substitutions in the hepatitis E virus genome: a prime agent in acute liver failure. United European Gastroenterology Journal 2013;1 (Suppl 1):A299.
Further UEG Education resources
  1. Hepatitis E: Who, when and how to treat? Presentation by Robert A De Man at UEG Week Vienna 2014
  2. Hepatitis E. Presentation by Rakesh Aggarwal at UEG Week Berlin 2013

Finding the right level

Infliximab levels antibodies to infliximab and disease activity in Crohn's disease.

With the widespread use of biologics such as Infliximab (IFX) for the treatment of IBD, research has focused on why some individuals respond well to their use, whilst others lose response over time or don't respond at all. Attention has focused on the role of antibodies to IFX (ATI) and whether they are responsible, at least in part, for this phenomenon, and whether monitoring and measuring ATI is useful for frontline clinicians treating patients.

The development of anti-TNF drugs (biologics) to treat chronic inflammatory conditions such as Crohn's disease has brought about dramatic changes in disease management. However, over the past 10 years there has been growing recognition that disease activity may be inversely related to the circulating drug levels. In patients with Crohn's disease, low or undetectable serum trough levels of IFX are associated with worse clinical outcomes. ATI are thought to increase the clearance of IFX, resulting in low serum trough levels. As part of a multinational research group, Vande Casteele et al. investigated the clinical relevance of ATI in patients who had adequate IFX concentrations.1 In this observational study, 1,487 trough serum samples from 483 patients with Crohn's disease were analysed using a fluid phase mobility shift assay, which is sensitive for the identification of ATI in the presence of IFX. They found that IFX trough concentrations >2.79 mg/mL during maintenance therapy were associated with remission, as measured by a C-reactive protein concentration of <5mg/L.  In addition, an ATI concentration level <3.15 U/mL was also associated with remission. Multivariate analysis showed that both the IFX trough concentration and ATI concentration were independent predictors of remission. The authors concluded that any detectable concentration of ATI was associated with greater disease activity, even in the presence of an adequate IFX trough concentration. They also postulated that ATI impair the effect of IFX via an alternative mechanism than by simply increasing its clearance. This suggestion is in keeping with the conclusion of Van Moerkecke et al. reporting on IFX levels and primary non-response at UEG Week 2009.2 These results support the role of therapeutic drug monitoring in patients with Crohn's disease who are receiving IFX. The results also provide justification for dose intensification with IFX in those patients without ATI but with a low IFX trough level and evidence of ongoing disease activity.  Patients with both low IFX trough levels and high ATI levels may benefit from conversion to a different TNF antagonist or 'class' of biologic agent. In an era of personalised medicine, adjusting medications according to the particular pharmacokinetics and immune adaptations of the individual receiving the medication may become the future gold standard. References 
  1. Vande Casteele N, Khanna R, Levesque BG, et al. The relationship between infliximab concentrations, antibodies to infliximab and disease activity in Crohn's disease. Gut Epub ahead of print 21 October 2014. DOI: 10.1136/gutjnl-2014-307883. 
  2. Van Moerkecke W, Cleynen I, Compernolle G, et al. Trough levels of infliximab in a cohort of primary non-responders. Gut 2009; 58 (Suppl II): A70.

Endoscopic happenings at UEG Week 2014

I am limbering up for a dose of endoscopy at UEG Week. The ESGE has already sent me free complimentary access to their eLearning unit "Colonoscopy – the Basics". Clearly they are trying to tell me something.

Hopefully you have now downloaded the UEG Week 2014 App, which allows you to choose between 20 different pathways. The UEG Week Vienna Pathways Tool can also be downloaded. I am particularly looking forward to the endoscopy pathway. On Saturday during the postgraduate teaching programme there will be two live endoscopy sessions in the afternoon. The live endoscopists can then relax until Tuesday morning when there will be wall-to-wall live endoscopy in Hall A. These Live sessions do not always go to plan and they are a great opportunity to see experts get into and out of difficulties. Alex Meining is in charge and has told me that he has a record 36 cases lined up. He promises "polyps, polyps, polyps (small ones, ugly ones, polyps in the ileum, polyps in the rectum, polyps in Barrett's, polyps in the stomach), several IBD patients with strictures, new endoscopes (a new gastroscope and the three-lens screening colonoscope from FUSE, Olympus brand new extra-wide-angle scope, etc.). (Only) one ESD, a POEM, pancreatic cysts (with drainage, inspection of IPMN with Spy and confocal). In addition, there are pancreatic and biliary strictures of various types, contrast-enhanced EUS and various EUS-FNAs using various needles". Sounds like the kind of real-life stuff that is always interesting to see how other approach. Don't forget UEG Week Live and UEG 24/7—streaming many sessions as they happen and then making them available later on. Note, however, that none of the live endoscopy sessions are live streamed. On Monday, I'm looking forward to the acute upper GI bleeding therapy update in Hall D. I've got high hopes for the Hemospray device, which I hope will allow me to stay in bed when injection and thermal therapy has failed. In my mind the only outstanding question is "Do we need to organise an early re-check the next morning?" My guess is yes, that white powder will not stay on forever! We have two free paper sessions on new imaging and diagnostic modalities in upper and lower GI endoscopy on Monday afternoon. Not sure why the organisers haven't put the two sessions in the same hall though? Nevertheless, it's great to see that technology arms race is still in place. Sadly, there is a clash between the upper GI update and the update on gastro and duodenal endotherapy. I have the greatest respect for duodenal endotherapy, which is Tiger country indeed. It would be great if there were something that reduces the risk of late bleeding! For a large mucosal defect I spray thrombin, but this stuff is ridiculously expensive. On Tuesday morning Lars Aabakken and I will be hosting a session dedicated to the future of colorectal cancer screening. We'll give you an update on what to do with sessile serrated lesions, and presentations on the thorny issue of how to prevent and deal with local recurrences. Hopefully we can get a consensus on how many times we should try to get rid of a local recurrence before we give up. These are just some of the endoscopic happenings at UEG Week 2014. There are lots more to choose from including updates on Barrett's, EUS, ERCP, capsule and small bowel disease. Endoscopy continues to develop in numerous simultaneous directions driven by new technologies. I think that it has overtaken radiology in complexity, variety and colour! Please give us some feedback on which endoscopy sessions you're enjoying throughout the meeting. The easiest way may be to tweet using any of the hashtags: #UEGWeek #endoscopy #UEGEducation. Alternatively, just grab me for a chat!

Moving through the oesophagus at UEG Week 2014

If this is not your first time at UEG Week, you will already know that coffee breaks and lunch are on us! Just don’t spend too much time on them, as we have an extensive programme on the oesophagus and all things related waiting for you as well!

The postgraduate teaching programme on Sunday is your entrée. It starts with novel approaches and views on dysphagia and eosinophilic oesophagitis in patients with normal endoscopy, followed by a case presentation session on new options in gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD). In the afternoon, you will be served an update on the management and outcomes of upper gastrointestinal bleeding (UGIB). Starting Monday, the oesophagus offering becomes truly 'buffet style' and you may want to take a look at the UEG Week Vienna Pathways Tool to help tailor your schedule to your appetite. For instance, this might be a good opportunity to get a therapy update on acute upper GI bleeding, starting at 11:00 in Hall D. Alternatively, you may walk into Hall B for views on the optimal management of patients with belching, aerophagia, rumination and hiccups. Can't decide? Here's a tip. Look for sessions with a 'Live' symbol. These will be streaming live on the UEG website and made available after the meeting via UEG 24/7. This is also a good day for you to grab your congress lunch and join Professor Mark Fox and colleagues in a round table discussion on dysphagia, based on a case presentation. Please come early though, as seats are limited. During the afternoon, there are two free paper sessions that might interest you: "Clinical and molecular factors in oesophago-gastric cancer outcomes", starting at 14:00 in Lounge 5, and "New diagnostic modalities in upper GI endoscopy", starting at 15:45 in Hall G/H. Continuing with your oesophageal main course, Tuesday kicks off with a therapy update on GORD, the implications of molecular pathogenesis on endoscopic therapy for Barrett's oesophagus, and a session on the risk factors and management of upper GI bleeding. If you are interested in novel endoscopic interventions in the oesophagus, please be sure to attend a free paper session on this topic at 11:00 in Hall O. Right after lunch at 14:00, you might want to join the discussion on whether function tests for the upper GI tract are indeed necessary or not (Hall B) or perhaps you might rather attend a free paper session on risk stratification and ablation in Barrett's oesophagus (Hall O). Moving towards the end of the day, a symposium on evidence-based treatment of achalasia takes place. No meal is complete without dessert! On Wednesday, the oesophagus pathway wraps up, starting with fresh and innovative views on the challenges and new frontiers in GORD and Barrett's oesophagus. You are also in for an integrated pathologist's versus endoscopist's view on oesophageal squamous cell carcinoma, early Barrett's neoplasia and early gastric carcinoma in the 11:00 symposium in Hall I/K. To return home with a sweet taste in your mouth, UEG Week 2014 ends with three cherries on top of the cake: a symposium on adenocarcinomas of the oesophago-gastric junction, another on endoscopic resection of upper GI tumours, and a free paper session on eosinophilic oesophagitis and other immune-mediated upper GI diseases.      We hope you enjoy the oesophagus 'course' at this year's UEG Week and look forward to your comments and tweets! (#UEGWeek #oesophagus #UEGEducation).

Spotlight on cancer—covering all bases at UEG Week 2014

Time is ticking away to UEG Week 2014 and if fighting cancer makes you tick, you are about to enjoy a full-course week, with servings from a cutting-edge research programme on cancer screening, diagnosis and prevention, and treatment.

If you're an early bird, you might decide to start your UEG Week 2014 experience on Saturday by attending the postgraduate teaching programme, with a mid-morning session dedicated to pancreatic adenocarcinoma, which covers endoscopic ultrasound, radiology and pathology for differential diagnosis, resectability and novel systemic treatment options. Sunday is a busy day and kicks off early morning with a session on colorectal cancer (CRC), focusing on early detection and local treatment, with talks on colonoscopy and non-invasive tests in population screening, and on recognition and diagnosis of early (T1) cancer: endoscopy, histopathological diagnosis and the use of ESD or TEM. This session is followed by one on terminal GI cancer, focused on symptom management and patient care (including case presentations). If you are only arriving on Monday, no worries! You are just in time to get in gear for the opening plenary session, which includes a talk on advances in the management of CRC, and is followed later in the morning by a free paper session focusing on the clinico-pathological features of GI cancer. During the lunch break you may want to electronically browse through the posters at the E-poster exhibition, and attend the new 'Poster Champ' sessions (from Monday to Wednesday), to select and award the best posters in each category. The afternoon programme includes plenty of sessions for you to choose from, starting with a free paper session on imaging techniques in colonoscopy, followed by another on new diagnostic modalities in upper GI endoscopy. In parallel, from a cancer treatment perspective, the session on late breaking digestive oncology abstracts is very appealing, and just prior to a session on the current and future perspectives in pancreatic cancer. Tuesday begins with a session on funding available for research under the EU research framework programme (H2020), followed by a 'Posters in the Spotlight' session on "Mechanisms underlying the development of GI cancer". This format is new for UEG Week 2014, in which hot topic research E-posters are presented on stage, and an oral free paper prize will be presented to the best poster. The afternoon kicks off with a free paper session on novel mechanisms and targets in CRC, followed by two sessions focusing on endoscopic management of early colorectal neoplasia and treatment of liver metastases. Wednesday wraps up this year's exciting and vibrant UEG Week, starting with novel approaches to rectal cancer from the viewpoint of the pathologist and the endoscopist. The final afternoon starts off with a round table discussion on molecular guided therapy for GI cancer, and ends with a session on the pancreas, in which an annual review of pancreatic cancer will be presented from basic and clinic viewpoints.  To make sure you're not missing out, please do complement this brief by browsing the complete programme online or by viewing the cancer pathway, which can be accessed online or via the UEG Week App.  We'd also love to hear what cancer content you find appealing throughout the meeting. Tweet to let us know! #UEGWeek #GIcancer #UEGEducation. On a footnote, since you can't physically be in two places at once (yet!), UEG will be livestreaming many of the sessions as they happen via UEG Week Live and all recorded talks will be made available via UEG 24/7.

Hepatobiliary highlights at UEG Week 2014

There is no doubt that 2014 is witnessing a revolution in the treatment of hepatitis C. You can find out all the latest information at this year's UEG Week, starting with a dedicated session during the postgraduate teaching programme on Saturday morning (Viral hepatitis: Cure by modern regimens?). The course will further offer you the opportunity to get an update on non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and alcoholic liver disease, as well as on the endoscopic management of malignant biliary obstruction challenges, and will also feature a clinical case-based session on liver function assessments.

For further insights into hepatitis C management, be sure to attend the opening plenary session on Monday morning, which includes a talk by Professor Michael Manns, followed by an overview by Professor Heiner Wedermeyer of what's new in hepatology in clinical practice in 2014. After lunch, there will be a special free paper session on the lingering clinical challenges for hepatitis C therapy, followed by an update symposium on viral hepatitis therapies. Hepatitis C may be a lead actor in this year's UEG Week liver 'play', but much more besides is being covered. For example, why not join a round table discussion on non-obstructive jaundice on Monday lunchtime (please note that numbers are limited for these sessions)? Updates on NAFLD and liver cirrhosis (in the format of a free paper session and posters in the spotlight) are also featured in the afternoon, in parallel with a session on the immunopathogenesis of pancreatitis and hepatitis, as part of UEG’s two day "Today's Science; Tomorrow's Medicine" initiative. On Tuesday morning you might find yourself undecided on which session to attend. Will it be 'Clinical management of liver cirrhosis' or 'The liver as a central regulator of inflammation'? Shortly after, there's an update on alcoholic liver disease and novel aspects of biliary tract cancer to choose between. Finally, the afternoon has new concepts in management of biliary diseases and a free paper session on biliary tract cancer occurring simultaneously. Lucky for you, UEG has your back; all recorded sessions will be made available via UEG 24/7, with many of the sessions being made available as they happen, via UEG Week Live. For the final day of the meeting, there will still be plenty to learn about cholangiocellularcarcinoma (and neuroendocrine tumours), as well as diagnosis and management of both non-cirrhotic and cirrhotic liver nodules. And you may want to return home with some new insights on biliary stenting or on the interconnecting pathways linking viral hepatitis, cytokines and liver regeneration, which you can learn all about in the last two free paper sessions of the day. And don't forget there are poster sessions running throughout the whole meeting! Last but not least, we invite to visit the online program and search for your specific topic of interest—the word 'liver’ alone returns 355 matches! Or you might want to make use of the UEG Week Vienna Pathways Tool to make sure you’re not missing out! You can also download the UEG Week App for your mobile device and have all this information and more at your fingertips. We hope you enjoy the hepatobiliary pathway and would love to hear what you find interesting at this year's meeting! Please do comment or tweet to let us know by including one or more of the following hashtags: #UEGWeek #Hepatobiliary #UEGEducation. You can also visit the UEG Education Lounge located in Hall Z and talk to us personally. Have a great meeting!

UEG Week 2014 in transit: A view from the intestine

With UEG Week 2014 just around the corner, we have forged a brief summary for your perusal that might be of interest if you're into inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or other issues related to functional and organic bowel diseases.

Unsurprisingly, IBD is one of the major topics at UEG Week 2014. If IBD is your thing, then you should kick things off with the postgraduate teaching programme on Saturday and Sunday, when you can learn more about what's important for diagnosis, the challenges of refractory IBD and also skin lesions in IBD. And do make sure you're ready for Monday because it's jam-packed! The opening plenary session includes no fewer than two talks on 'How to translate basic immunology findings into clinical reality in IBD'. You may then want to stay put in Hall A to get updates on 'What's new in 2014' and to receive highlights from Digestive Disease Week 2014. However, you might prefer to stretch your legs and explore the convention centre. Why not look up environmental factors and IBD (Hall F2), conventional therapy for IBD (Hall I/K) or the free paper session on small bowel imaging and endoscopic interventions (Lounge 6), where you can get updates on everything from the diagnostic value of faecal calprotectin to the clinical usefulness of virtual enteroscopy for Crohn’s Disease. At lunchtime there's a round table discussion on treating IBD in patients with cancer and early in the afternoon there are parallel sessions on pathophysiology and new imaging tools. After all that, move to Hall E to be updated on the new European guidelines for diagnosing IBD or to Hall L/M to find out about new therapeutics for specific targets. Tuesday and Wednesday continue in the same vein, with more than ten other IBD sessions on offer—from management of complicated Crohn's disease to the best use of biologics, new biomarkers, new drugs, epidemiology and outcomes, targeting new pathways and what's new in 2014. In order to bone up on coeliac disease and wheat allergy, you should look up the postgraduate teaching programme session in Hall E on Sunday morning. Monday sees an afternoon session on 'New Challenges in Gluten Sensitivity: From Bench to Bedside', and includes a talk on triggers and drivers of autoimmunity. Look up 'Posters in the Spotlight' on Tuesday afternoon to learn about the applicability of serological tests for the diagnosis of coeliac disease in asymptomatic children. Speaking of those who are asymptomatic—should they be put on a gluten-free diet? Find out at the round table discussion on Wednesday lunchtime! To learn more about diet, food intolerance, and nutrition you'll probably want to secure a seat in Hall G/H Wednesday from 11:00am. Diet appears to be a major modulator of gut microbiota and this is one of the topics covered in the 'Today's Science Tomorrow's Medicine' session on 'Diet, immunity and systemic disease' in Hall R late on Monday morning. Moving on to bacteria, blooming blasters of bad bugs probably don't want to miss out on the postgraduate training programme on Saturday afternoon, which covers diagnosis, management and prevention of Clostridium difficile infections. Obviously, faecal microbial transplantation is bound to attract a lot of attention—make sure you secure your seat in Hall C on Tuesday afternoon! To learn more about the gut microbiota in health and disease, the symposium on altered intestinal microbiota composition in IBS on Monday morning in Hall G/H is an absolute must. Participate in the debate on whether gut microbiota alterations in patients with IBS are a cause or a consequence. To be updated on FODMAP and gluten-free diets for IBS patients you just have to look up Hall I/K and Hall Q on Monday afternoon, and if this is not enough, a panoply of talks on restrictive diets is in store for you in Hall E just before lunch on Tuesday. Next, hurry to Hall G/H to participate in the round table discussion on how to manage the difficult IBS patient, and then, immediately after this, Hall D is certainly the place to be on Tuesday afternoon if you want to continue learning how to manage IBS patients successfully. Please, however, be aware that there is also a Translational/Basic Science pathway session on normal and abnormal cross-talk at the mucosal border and the relevance of this for GI function and dysfunction taking place on Tuesday afternoon (Hall L/M). Faecal incontinence gets attention in the postgraduate teaching programme on Sunday, while constipation takes the stage on Tuesday afternoon—these two topics are also the focus of a free paper session in Hall R on Wednesday morning. Finally, don't forget the 'Neurogastroenterology and Motility: What’s new in 2014?' symposium in Hall 2 at 11:00–12:30 on Wednesday! With so much on offer, don't forget that there are plenty of tools available to help you make the most of UEG Week 2014. Downloading the UEG Week Vienna Pathways Tool is one way of getting acquainted with the entire conference programme. Or maybe you prefer to download the UEG Week App instead? The App includes the 'Pathways' feature that enables you to identify exactly which sessions might be of particular interest for your specialty. Many of the talks will be made available as they happen via UEG Week Live, which is great if you can't make the meeting in person. All recorded sessions will also be made available via UEG 24/7—perfect if you can't decide between parallel sessions!   We'd love to hear what intestine and motility content you find interesting throughout the meeting, so please do tweet to let us know by including the hashtag #UEGEducation and one or more of the following: #Intestine #IBS #IBD #motility #microbiota #FMT (faecal microbial transplantation) #Cdiff   Happy ruminating!

Translating the basics at UEG Week 2014

If you're a GI researcher interested in basic and translational science, you could be forgiven for not registering for the postgraduate teaching programme at UEG Week 2014. Well, if you happen to be arriving in Vienna this weekend, I invite you to give it a try—you might leave with your next big grant project idea on your hands!

The postgraduate teaching programme on Saturday and Sunday will focus on the most recent and urgent clinical needs in how to better diagnose, manage and treat GI diseases, with basic and translational science having an increasing role in providing answers. For more information, please have a look at the postgraduate teaching programme online.  If you prefer to enjoy the city sights during the weekend and start fresh on Monday morning, there will be plenty of opportunity to learn and interact. Indeed, UEG has increased the number of translational/basic science symposia available during this year's core meeting. The first symposium takes place on Monday morning, with a session on nuclear receptors and the molecular pathways governing insulin resistance and lipotoxicity in non-alcoholic steatohepatitis. In the afternoon, you can learn about novel regulatory mechanisms involving cytokines and intestinal inflammation in inflammatory bowel disease. Four (!) additional translational/basic science sessions take place on Tuesday, with topics ranging from the implications of molecular pathogenesis on endoscopic therapy for Barrett's oesophagus to the development of cystic pancreatic lesions, dysbiosis and intestinal barrier defects, and bile acids and nuclear receptors. The final day of the meeting will feature the latest on genetics and upper GI cancer, focusing on its clinical relevance, as well as the emerging role of microbiota in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. This also seems like the perfect opportunity to draw your attention to the Young GI Network activities taking place during UEG Week 2014, where delegates below the age of 40 will have the unique opportunity to talk with and receive guidance from experienced scientists and physicians. To make these interactions easier and more casual, UEG has prepared a dedicated lounge at the venue where you can network with peers from around the world and form new collaborations over a smooth cup of coffee. For more information please check out the plans for the Young GI Network at UEG Week 2104. We would love to hear your thoughts on the translational/basic science content at this year’s meeting! Please feel free to comment here or tweet with one or more of the following hashtags: #UEGWeek #Science #UEGEducation. Alternatively, why not come and talk to us in person at the UEG Education Lounge, which is located in Hall Z. As a final reminder, and in case you won't be able to join us in person this year, UEG will be live streaming a significant amount of sessions through UEG Week Live. As an alternative, or if you cannot decide on which parallel session to attend, we also have things covered; all recorded presentations will be made available via UEG 24/7.

How to stomach H. pylori during UEG Week 2014

UEG Week 2014 is now just a few days away, and if your research or specialty involves upper GI diseases, such as gastric ulcers or gastric cancer, you're sure to get your fill at this year’s meeting.

With more than 35 sessions of relevance to choose from, we've selected a few that you might find interesting and informative, but do consider downloading the UEG Week Vienna Pathways Tool to make sure you're not missing out! The postgraduate teaching programme on Sunday has a lot in store for you. In the morning, there is a session on advanced endoscopic techniques, including gastrointestinal imaging and submucosal endoscopy. Around noon, you'll need to choose between three practical sessions that are supported by case presentations: learn more about managing and caring for patients with terminal GI cancer, progress in dysphagia and gastroparesis or whether we've solved all the problems associated with H. pylori infection. The afternoon is completed by a session on management and outcomes of upper GI bleeding, including endoscopic management, blood transfusion, pharmacological strategies for improving outcomes in acute upper GI bleeding, and information on the impact of novel oral anticoagulants on the gastroenterologist's case load. How H. pylori alters stem cell homeostasis by direct colonization of the gastric glands is the subject of a talk by Michael Sigal in Monday morning's opening plenary session in Hall A. If you choose to stay put in Hall A, you will certainly be able to find something to your liking in the 'What's new in 2014' session. Alternatively, you may want to proceed to Hall D if you're particularly interested in issues related to acute upper GI bleeding, or to Hall B if you’re more into topics related to belching, aerophagia, hiccups, rumination or cyclic vomiting. Of course, functional dyspepsia is also on the menu. Talks on diagnostic criteria and therapeutic approaches will surely attract quite a few attendants in a symposium dedicated to new thoughts in functional dyspepsia. This symposium also includes a talk on the role of food allergy in dyspepsia, and data on the association of serum adipocytokines and gut hormone levels with gastric emptying and symptoms in patients with functional dyspepsia will be presented. Monday finishes with talks and a panel discussion on 'quality endoscopy', including upper GI diagnosis, and should give rise to some interesting discussions based on experience and data from around the world. By the way, don't forget to season your Monday with some of the 'Best of DDW' from 14.00—15.30 in Hall A. There are two free paper sessions on offer if you're up and about bright and early on Tuesday morning: one on upper GI bleeding (risk factors and management) and the other on gastric carcinogenesis (new insights into pathogenesis and management). Tuesday morning is also H. pylori galore and offers an entire symposium on H. pylori-associated gastric carcinogenesis, covering everything on how H. pylori is able to induce gastric cancer. Unsurprisingly, there will be presentations on H. pylori-induced epigenetic changes, H. pylori-mediated miRNA regulation, proteolytic activity, and how iron deficiency may be involved in H. pylori-associated carcinogenesis. Later in the day, Hall B will also host talks on function tests for the upper GI tract and this session is a must for those interested in lactose intolerance and for those who do not really know what to make of oesophageal high-resolution manometry. If you're not full by the end of Tuesday, there's still plenty on offer on the final day of the meeting. On Wednesday lunchtime there are limited spaces available at two Round Table Discussions: one on the impact of long-term PPI use and one on molecular guided therapy for GI cancer. You also have your pick of two Wednesday afternoon symposia. In case you want to update yourself on advances in obtaining a mechanistic understanding of dyspepsia, Hall B is the place to be. Here you will also get a general update on dyspepsia, including data on new drugs, psychological therapies, and diagnostic tools. If adenocarcinoma of the oesophago-gastric junction sounds more alluring, then you should proceed to Hall F1. Here, different aspects of diagnosis and treatment will be dealt with, and the session highlights the relevance of taking a multidisciplinary approach to this particular disease. Finally, don't forget to check out the poster sessions on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, with 'Posters in the Spotlight' available for viewing in the E-poster lounge on those days. We'd love to hear what stomach and H. pylori content you find interesting throughout the meeting, so please do tweet to let us know by including one or more of the following hashtags: #UEGWeek #Stomach #Hpylori #upperGI #UEGEducation. In case you're not attending UEG Week in person, please note that many of the talks will be made available as they happen via UEG Week Live – just follow the livestream on the UEG website (www.live.ueg.eu/week). If you can't catch every talk as it happens (in person or via the livestream), then you're in luck because all recorded sessions will be made available via UEG 24/7 (www.ueg.eu/week/24-7). Bon appétit!

Cap, hood, cuff, balloon

What is next for colonoscopy?

Balloon colonoscopy is yet another invention that aims to improve the adenoma detection rate (ADR) during colonoscopy. A recent pilot study evaluated the safety and efficacy of a novel colonoscope with an inflatable balloon at the distal end, reporting no serious adverse events among the study population. Quality indicators such as caecal intubation rate, ADR and polyp detection rate were reported, but future studies are awaited to compare the ADR of balloon colonoscopy with that of standard colonoscopy.

Endoscopy is a great specialty, in which opportunities for research and development are abundant for the enthusiasts, owing to a steady stream of technological developments. This technological arms race has resulted in the emergence of numerous optical enhancement methods. High-definition scopes, narrow-band imaging (NBI), autofluorescence imaging (AFI), Fuji Intelligent Chromoendoscopy (FICE), i-SCAN image enhancement technology, wide angle endoscopes, the Third Eye retroscope, caps and more recently Full Spectrum Endoscopy (FUSE) are aimed at improving the detection and recognition of pathology. It is the limited visibility behind colonic folds, particularly in the right hemi-colon, that these new technologies are trying to overcome. Gralnek et al. now describe the use of a novel colonoscope with an integrated inflatable balloon situated behind the distal end of the colonoscope.1 A standard adult colonoscope was modified and only white light examination was performed. Two expert endoscopists from a single centre took part in this pilot study. Upon reaching the caecum the balloon was inflated for controlled withdrawal, the idea being that when inflated the balloon would straighten out the colonic fold and improve visualisation. 47 patients were included in the final analysis and the authors report no major adverse events following use of the novel colonoscope. The reported average caecal intubation time, withdrawal time and total procedure time were 4.3 minutes, 7.4 minutes and 16.5 minutes, respectively. The polyp detection rate and adenoma detection rate were 53.2% and 44.7%, respectively.  Unfortunately, there was no control group, which raises the question of whether a comparable adenoma detection rate might have been achieved with the use of a conventional endoscope, particularly if withdrawn slowly over a 7–8 minute period. The participants in this study were recruited from colorectal cancer and polyp surveillance groups, along with others (no breakdown provided) in whom the polyp burden was expected to be greater than in 'all comers'. It was unclear as to why terminal ileal intubation was successful in only 5 of 47 colonoscopies and rectal retroversion in 31 of 47 colonoscopies. Whether the impregnated balloon impairs manoeuvrability of the tip is not known. I guess that the aim of the study was to look only at safety outcomes. Intermediate results from a randomised controlled tandem study comparing standard colonoscopy with balloon colonoscopy were presented at the UEG Week Berlin 2013.2 The results were impressive, with 100% additional detection of polyps with second-pass balloon colonoscopy and a 5.6 % polyp miss-rate on first-pass balloon colonoscopy. The final report is still awaited, however, future research into right-sided adenoma detection and tip control for difficult polypectomy using balloon colonoscopy would be interesting. References
  1. Gralnek IM, Suissa A and Domanov S. Safety and efficacy of a novel balloon colonoscope: a prospective cohort study. Endoscopy. 2014; 46: 883–887.
  2. Shpak B HZ, Kiesslich R, Moshkowitz M, et al. Novel balloon-colonoscope for increased polyp detection rate—intermediate results of a randomized tandem study. United European Gastroenterology Week (UEGW); Oct 12-16 2013, Berlin, Germany.
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