Challenges in the diagnosis and management of inflammatory bowel disease in resource-limited settings in Asia
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is increasing in prevalence in resource-limited settings in Asia. Although the prevalence of IBD is lower in these settings than in high-income countries, the high disease burden due to large population size is projected to overtake that of high-income countries in the near future. Unique challenges exist for diagnosing and managing IBD in Asia. On one hand, the inadequate disease awareness in physicians and the general population, the scarcity of diagnostic services, the infectious mimics of IBD (specifically intestinal tuberculosis), and the widespread use of empirical antibiotics and antitubercular therapy pose diagnostic challenges. On the other hand, the absence of a centralised health-care delivery system or universal health insurance, the high cost of therapy, limited access to biologics, and the high risk of opportunistic infections with immunosuppressive therapy present therapeutic challenges. The high probability of tuberculosis reactivation often precludes biological therapy because Asia is highly endemic for tuberculosis and has a high prevalence of latent tuberculosis. Current screening strategies are often ineffective in ruling out latent tuberculosis. Hence, management strategies are often modified according to these challenges. This Series paper discusses the challenges in the diagnosis and management of IBD in resource-limited settings in Asia.