Objectives: Recent studies in familial Crohn's disease (CD) have suggested that anti-Saccharomyces cerevisiae mannan antibodies (ASCAs) may represent a new specific marker of genetic susceptibility. In this study we aimed to assess the importance of ASCAs by comparing their presence in a large number of patients with sporadic and familial occurrence of CD or ulcerative colitis (UC) and their unaffected relatives.
Methods: Serum samples from 96 patients with sporadic CD, 97 patients with sporadic UC, and 50 unrelated healthy controls were tested for ASCAs by a standard ELISA method. Moreover, 73 families with two or more members affected by CD and/or UC were recruited. From these families 58 CD patients, 84 UC patients, and 216 unaffected first degree relatives were investigated.
Results: ASCAs were detected in 34 of 96 patients with sporadic CD (35%, p < 0.01 vs controls), 11 of 97 patients with sporadic UC (12%), and two of 50 controls (4%). ASCAs were significantly (p < 0.04) more frequent in patients with familial CD (55%) and familial UC (25%) than in sporadic cases. Moreover, ASCAs were found in 25% of unaffected relatives, and this rate did not significantly differ in CD, UC, and mixed families (28%, 26%, and 22%, respectively).
Conclusions: In this study we confirm that ASCAs occur particularly frequently in CD patients, especially with the presence of a positive family history. However, they are also significantly increased in UC patients with a family history and in a considerable number of unaffected relatives of inflammatory bowel disease families, irrespective of the characteristics of their families (UC, CD, mixed, ASCA positive, and ASCA negative). The presence of ASCAs in unaffected relatives might point toward a genetic predisposition to either CD or UC.