In a new study, researchers found that medications that target tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNFα), a protein involved in inflammation, have revolutionized the management of certain autoimmune diseases.
However, this type of drugs may trigger the development of inflammatory bowel disease.
The research was conducted by a team from Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
In the study, the team examined 17,018 individuals with autoimmune diseases who were treated with anti-TNFα medications—mostly infliximab, etanercept, and adalimumab.
They also tested 63,308 individuals who were not treated with drugs.
They found that treatment with etanercept, but not other anti-TNFα drugs, was linked with a higher risk of developing inflammatory bowel disease.
Patients who used the drugs had a twofold increased risk of Crohn’s disease and a twofold increased risk of ulcerative colitis.
The findings show that there is an increased risk of developing inflammatory bowel disease in people taking etanercept.
Recognition of this phenomenon is important for doctors taking care of these patients.
More importantly, this study shows that inflammatory bowel disease may be one of the auto-immune diseases that can be provoked by anti-TNFα agents.
This suggests that there may be a common mechanism of immune dysfunction underpinning these diseases.
Future work needs to confirm the current findings.
The lead author of the study is Joshua Korzenik, MD from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in Boston.
The study is published in Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics.
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