Background and aim: Crohn's disease (CD) is a heterogeneous disorder characterized by diverse clinical phenotypes. Childhood-onset CD has been described as a more aggressive phenotype. Genetic and immune factors may influence disease phenotype and clinical course. We examined the association of immune responses to microbial antigens with disease behavior and prospectively determined the influence of immune reactivity on disease progression in pediatric CD patients.
Methods: Sera were collected from 196 pediatric CD cases and tested for immune responses: anti-I2, anti-outer membrane protein C (anti-OmpC), anti-CBir1 flagellin (anti-CBir1), and anti-Saccharomyces-cerevisiae (ASCA) using ELISA. Associations between immune responses and clinical phenotype were evaluated.
Results: Fifty-eight patients (28%) developed internal penetrating and/or stricturing (IP/S) disease after a median follow-up of 18 months. Both anti-OmpC (p < 0.0006) and anti-I2 (p < 0.003) were associated with IP/S disease. The frequency of IP/S disease increased with increasing number of immune responses (p trend = 0.002). The odds of developing IP/S disease were highest in patients positive for all four immune responses (OR (95% CI): 11 (1.5-80.4); p = 0.03). Pediatric CD patients positive for > or =1 immune response progressed to IP/S disease sooner after diagnosis as compared to those negative for all immune responses (p < 0.03).
Conclusions: The presence and magnitude of immune responses to microbial antigens are significantly associated with more aggressive disease phenotypes among children with CD. This is the first study to prospectively demonstrate that the time to develop a disease complication in children is significantly faster in the presence of immune reactivity, thereby predicting disease progression to more aggressive disease phenotypes among pediatric CD patients.