Patients with severe bowel disease may benefit from a new drug that can eliminate their distressing symptoms within just three months.
Itrasimod tablet once a day treats ulcerative colitis condition by binding to the immune cells and preventing them from mistakenly attacking healthy tissue in the lining of the intestine.
In a recent trial, 27 percent of patients who had failed to respond to another treatment were found to be in remission after only 12 weeks, and 32 percent were symptom-free after one year.
Ulcerative colitis can be debilitating, causing bloody diarrhea, extreme tiredness, loss of appetite and weight loss,
It can also trigger symptoms such as abdominal pain and digestive discomfort – similar to the more common problem irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
The once-a-day tablet of Etrasimod treats ulcerative colitis conditions by binding to immune cells and preventing them from mistakenly attacking healthy tissue in the lining of the intestine.
Dr Sami Hock, a gastroenterologist at Barts Health NHS Trust in London who ran the UK branch of the Atrassimod trial, described the results as ‘astonishing’.
He said: ‘When I started treatment for ulcerative colitis, there were very few options available, and what we did had serious side effects. The advantage of Etrasimod is that it is very selective, able to target uncontrolled inflammatory cells without affecting the entire immune system.
It is a significant addition to existing treatments for bowel disease and, unlike other treatments that involve injections, it comes as a once-daily tablet. It puts the power in the hands of the patients, which means they can avoid visiting the hospital regularly.
Ulcerative colitis is a long-term disorder that occurs when, when the cause is not fully understood, the immune system overreacts and attacks healthy body tissue in the lining of the large intestine or colon, causing inflammation and ulcers. it happens. It is one of the two major types of inflammatory bowel disease, along with Crohn’s disease.
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The condition affects around 1,46,000 people in the UK, but experts suggest that many more remain undiagnosed and that as many as one in 50 over ten may have some form of the disease. .
Patients may go months without symptoms before a flare-up. During these episodes, some patients also experience joint pain, mouth sores and burning eyes. In the most severe cases, they may also have shortness of breath, palpitations, and fever.
If doctors suspect colitis, they first take a stool sample to test for a protein called calprotectin — a sign of inflammation in the intestine.
If a positive result occurs, the gastroenterologist will perform further tests to look for physical signs of damage. This usually involves a colonoscopy, where a camera is inserted into the back passage and tissue is cut for testing.
First-line treatment includes pills or suppositories that contain anti-inflammatory drugs called aminosalicylates. These help manage mild flare-ups, but their effects wear off over time.
Other options include powerful steroids that reduce inflammation but come with the risk of unpleasant side effects such as acne, mood swings, and diabetes. Medicines that suppress the immune system can also be used, but these can make patients more vulnerable to infection.
If these options fail, as in 15 percent of cases, surgery to remove the bowel may be the only option.
Dr Hock said: ‘Etrasimod can be used in combination with existing treatments to strengthen the body’s defenses and to remove the need for surgery.’
The drug is not yet approved. However, experts expect the process to start by the end of this year.
Romit Zutshi, 42, of Chigwell, Essex, was diagnosed with bowel disease in 2015 and treated with itrasimod as part of the Barts trial.
When he started seeing blood in his stool and had to go to the toilet eight times a day, the married father first went to his GP.
He added: ‘Not knowing what was wrong with me was scary. I had started losing weight and was constantly tired at night waking up to go to the toilet.’
Failing to respond to other drugs he was enrolled in the Atrassimod trial at Barts in 2020 and saw ‘a drastic improvement’.
He continued: ‘I feel more confident and able to live more or less like a normal person. Earlier, when I used to step out of the house I used to worry constantly about being near the toilet and not able to exercise properly because I used to get tired so easily, but now it is not a problem.
Weird science: Homemade medicine that left fungus in human veins
At the hospital, tests showed that the man’s liver and kidneys were deteriorating because the fungus Psilocybe cubensis was growing in his blood.
A man developed a deadly fungal infection after mushrooms grew in his blood.
The 30-year-old American told doctors he was trying to find a way to treat his mental health problems.
After reading that psilocybin, a hallucinogenic compound found in magic mushrooms, might help cancer patients with anxiety and depression, he boiled them in a tea and ingested them.
Later in the day he started feeling nauseous, confused and started vomiting blood.
At the hospital, tests showed that his liver and kidneys were failing because the fungus Psilocybe cubensis was growing in his blood.
According to the Journal of The Academy of Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry, the man spent 22 days in the hospital, eight of them in intensive care, had his blood filtered and two courses of antibiotics.
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