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Prevalence and Effect of Intestinal Infections Detected by a PCR-Based Stool Test in Patients

Prevalence and Effect of Intestinal Infections Detected by a PCR-Based Stool Test in Patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Julajak Limsrivilai, Zachary M Saleh, Laura A Johnson, Ryan W Stidham, Akbar K Waljee, Shail M Govani, Brian Gutermuth, Alexandra M Brown, Emily Briggs, Krishna Rao, Peter D R Higgins

Published Nov, 2020 in the Digestive diseases and sciences


Background: The advent of PCR-based stool testing has identified a greatly increased number of infectious agents in IBD, but their clinical significance is unknown.

Aims: To determine the infectious agent prevalence and the clinical significance of these infectious agents in IBD patients.

Methods: This cross-sectional study compared the prevalence of GI infections among IBD patients with active and quiescent disease versus healthy controls. Among actively inflamed patients, we compared clinical characteristics, medication use, and disease course between those with positive and negative tests.

Results: Three hundred and thirty-three IBD patients and 52 healthy volunteers were included. The IBD group was divided into active Crohn's disease (CD, n = 113), inactive CD (n = 53), active ulcerative colitis (UC, n = 128), and inactive UC (n = 39). A significantly higher percentage of actively inflamed patients had positive stool tests (31.1%) compared to those with quiescent disease (7.6%, P = < 0.001) and healthy controls (13.5%, P = 0.01). In actively inflamed patients, shorter symptom duration and the use of multiple immunosuppressive agents were significantly associated with positive stool tests. Escalation of immunosuppressive therapy was less frequent in those with positive (61.3%) than with negative tests (77.7%, P = < 0.01). However, the need for surgery (13.3% vs. 18.7%, respectively, P = 0.31) and hospitalization (14.7% vs. 17.5%, respectively, P = 0.57) in 90 days was not significantly different.

Conclusion: GI infections are common in IBD patients with active disease. Evaluating patients for infection may help avoid unnecessary escalation of immunosuppressants, especially during an acute flare or combination immunosuppression.

Keywords: Crohn’s disease; Gastrointestinal infection; Inflammatory bowel disease; PCR-based stool test; Ulcerative colitis.


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