Ulcerative colitis can be eliminated in just three months thanks to a daily tablet

Patients with severe bowel disease could benefit from a new medication that can get rid of their annoying symptoms within just three months.

Once-a-day tablet etrasimod treats the condition ulcerative colitis by binding to immune cells and preventing them from mistakenly attacking healthy tissue in the lining of the intestine.

In a recent trial, 27 percent of sufferers who failed to respond to any other treatment were found to be in remission after just 12 weeks, and 32 percent were asymptomatic after one year.

Ulcerative colitis can be debilitating, causing bloody diarrhea, extreme fatigue, loss of appetite and weight loss.

It can also trigger symptoms such as abdominal pain and digestive discomfort – similar to the more common irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Once-a-day tablet etrasimod treats the condition ulcerative colitis by binding to immune cells and preventing them from mistakenly attacking healthy tissue in the lining of the intestine.

Dr Sami Hoque, a gastroenterologist at the Barts Health NHS Trust in London, who administered the British arm of the etrasimod test, described its results as “amazing”.

He added: “When I started treating ulcerative colitis, there were very few options available, and what we did caused severe side effects. The advantage of etrasimod is that it is highly selective, able to target uncontrollable inflammatory cells without affecting the immune system at all. .

It is a significant addition to existing treatments for bowel disease and, unlike other therapies that involve injections, it comes as a once daily tablet. This puts the power in the hands of patients, which means they can avoid regular hospital visits. ‘

Ulcerative colitis is a long-term disorder that occurs when, for reasons not fully understood, the immune system speeds up and attacks healthy body tissue in the lining of the large intestine or colon, causing inflammation and ulcers. It is one of two major types of inflammatory bowel disease, along with Crohn’s disease.

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The condition affects around 146,000 people in the UK, but experts suggest that many more could be undiagnosed and that even one in ten people over the age of 50 can have some form of the disease.

Patients may be asymptomatic for months before being affected by a flare-up. During these episodes, some patients also experience painful joints, mouth ulcers and irritated red eyes. In the most severe cases, they may also suffer from shortness of breath, palpitations and fever.

If doctors suspect colitis, they first take a stool sample to test for a protein called kalprotectin – a sign of inflammation in the gut.

If there is a positive result, a gastroenterologist will perform additional tests to look for physical signs of damage. This usually involves colonoscopy, where a camera is inserted into the back passage and tissue is cut out for testing.

First-line treatment involves tablets or suppositories containing anti-inflammatory drugs called aminosalicylates. These help to manage mild flares, but their effect has faded over time.

Other options include potent steroids that lower inflammation but come with the risk of unpleasant side effects such as acne, mood swings and diabetes. Medications that suppress the immune system may also be used, but these can leave patients vulnerable to infections.

If these options fail, as in 15 percent of cases, surgery to remove the bowel may be the only option.

Dr Hoque said: “Etrasimod could be used in combination with existing treatments to strengthen the body’s defenses and prevent the need for surgery.”

The drug has not yet been approved. However, experts hope that this process will begin later this year.

Romit Zutshi, 42, of Chigwell in Essex, was diagnosed with bowel disease in 2015 and was treated with etrasimod as part of the Barts trial.

One’s married father first went to his doctor after he started seeing blood on his stool and had to go to the toilet up to eight times a day.

He said: ‘Not knowing what was wrong with me was scary. I started to lose weight and was constantly tired from waking up at night to rush to the toilet. ‘

Not reacting to other medications, he was enrolled in the etrasimod trial at Barts in 2020 and noticed a “drastic improvement”.

He added: ‘I feel more confident and able to live more or less like a normal person. Previously, I would constantly worry about being near a toilet when I left the house and couldn’t exercise properly because I would get tired so easily, but that’s no longer a problem. ‘

STRANGE SCIENCE: A homemade drug that left a person with a fungus in their veins

In hospital, tests showed that the man's liver and kidneys failed when the fungus psilocybe cubensis grew in his blood.

In hospital, tests showed that the man’s liver and kidneys failed when the fungus psilocybe cubensis grew in his blood.

A man developed a life-threatening fungal infection after the fungus began to grow in his bloodstream.

The 30-year-old American told doctors he was trying to find a way to treat his mental health problems.

After reading this psilocybin, a hallucinogenic compound found in magic mushrooms, could help cancer patients with anxiety and depression, he boiled them in tea and injected it.

In the following days he became disgusted, confused, and began to vomit blood.

In hospital, tests showed that his liver and kidneys failed when the fungus psilocybe cubensis grew in his blood.

The man spent 22 days in hospital, eight of them in intensive care, having his blood filtered and two courses of antibiotics, according to the Journal Of The Academy of Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry.

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