Food Poisoning May Raise IBD Risk

Study Shows Food-Borne Infections Are Linked to Risk of Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on June 01, 2009

June 1, 2009 -- Salmonella or campylobacter food poisoning triples the risk of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) -- for at least 15 years.

IBD typically refers to Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. It's not clear exactly what causes IBD. Genetics, environment, diet, abnormal blood vessels, infections, immune-system overreaction, and psychological factors all have been blamed.

To see whether infections play a role, Henrik Nielsen, MD, of Aalborg Hospital in Denmark took advantage of his nation's system of tracking citizen's health records.

The system allowed Nielsen and colleagues to look at whether people who've been treated for certain infections are at higher risk of developing IBD.

The researchers looked at two kinds of food poisoning: salmonella and campylobacter. They identified 13,149 people treated for either infection and compared their health records to those of people who never suffered these infections.

People who had one or the other kind of food-borne infection had a 1.2% risk of getting IBD over the next 15 years. Those who never had either infection had only a 0.5% risk of IBD. Statistical analysis showed that the food-borne infections tripled IBD risk for at least the next 15 years.

"If we can reduce and prevent the spread of food bacteria and infections, we may reduce or even largely eliminate IBD in the long term," Nielsen says in a news release.

Nielsen reported the findings in a presentation to this week's Digestive Disease Week (DDW), held May 30 to June 4 in Chicago. DDW is an annual conference sponsored by the American Gastroenterological Association, the American Association for the study of Liver Diseases, the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, and the Society for Surgery of the Alimentary Tract.