A leading medical researcher today warned that the incidence of Crohn’s disease in Scotland could be among the highest in the world.
Professor John Hermon-Taylor, who has been funded by leading medical research charity Action Research, states “Scottish incidence of Crohn’s disease is likely to be equal or more than rates recorded elsewhere in the world. A whole range of remedial measures are needed, and for which the Scottish government should take prompt action”.
The Professor, of St George’s Hospital Medical School, London, wants the Scottish Government to make the disease notifiable (i.e. collect statistics upon diagnosis) and implement a MAP free policy in Scottish dairy herds.
He commented “The disease must be made notifiable as soon as possible. Within one year, this would give us an expanding, anonymous and accurate database of the occurrence, location, age and gender of Crohn’s Disease patients and other important data about their exposure to unpasteurised milk or contaminated water. This would be a vital resource for epidemiological and other studies that clearly need to be done, and for the early and accurate assessment and monitoring of remedial actions.
“Through our own research as well as other work, there is now overwhelming evidence that a bug found in milk plays a major role in the development of Crohn’s disease. Studies show that the bug maybe prevalent in the north-east of Scotland. The Scottish Government should also implement an MAP free policy”.
The bug, an organism known as MAP (Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis), is not completely killed by normal milk pasteurisation methods and is present in people with Crohn’s disease.
Anne Luther, Director General of Action Research said “We believe that compulsory notification would give us a true understanding of the extent of the problem. Currently we only have estimates to work on, and clearly that is not good enough if we are to fight a disease which severely debilitates tens of thousands of people in the UK”.
Scottish incidence of the disease has only been recorded sporadically.
1. A study in the Lancet in April 1999 reported that among Scottish children of 16 years of age or under the incidence of new cases of Crohn’s disease had increased by 50 percent over a ten year period - from 19 new cases per million children in 1982, to 29 new cases per million in 1991. In the 12-16 year old age group the incidence doubled over the same period.
2. Studies by Kyle in Aberdeen, published in the leading journal ‘Gastroenterology’, showed that there were 32 Crohn’s disease cases per 100,000 people in 1969 and 147 per 100,000 in 1988.
Crohn’s disease ruins the lives of sufferers. Symptoms include chronic diarrhoea, daily abdominal pain, weight loss, extreme tiredness and psychological problems.
Current estimates are that Crohn’s disease affects up to 80,000 people in the UK. An accurate figure for the number in Scotland is not known. It is thought that there are 4000 - 8000 new cases every year in the UK, and that the problem is growing. The weakness of these estimates was demonstrated in the recent debate in the House of Lords where the reported figures for Crohn’s disease sufferers in the UK varied between 30,000 and 100,000.
Action Research has funded four research projects into Crohn’s disease since 1979, a total spend of over £ ¾ million.
For further information contact: Mike Deyes Tel: 01403 327 429 firstname.lastname@example.org
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