Background: Ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease are characterized by a chronic intestinal inflammation. Since the precise etiology is still unknown, current therapies are aimed at reducing or eliminating inflammation.
Methods: Endoscopy and histology on biopsy specimens remain the gold standard methods for detecting and quantifying bowel inflammation. These technique are expensive, invasive and not well tolerated by patients since the need of repeated examinations affects their quality of life. Although disease activity scores and laboratory inflammatory markers are widely used they showed unreliable relations with endoscopy and histology. Fecal markers have been investigated in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) by many authors for diagnostic purposes, to assess disease activity and of risk of complications, to predict relapse or recurrence, and to monitor the effect of therapy. Many inflammatory mediators have been detected in the feces such as leukocytes, cytokines and proteins from neutrophil activation. Some of these, particularly lactoferrin and calprotectin, have been demonstrated to be useful in detecting active inflammatory bowel disease, in predicting recurrence of disease after surgery or monitoring the effects of medical therapy. Calprotectin and lactoferrin are remarkably stable and easily detect in stool using ELISA so they appear to be equally recommendable as inflammation markers in the lower gastrointestinal tract especially in IBD patients.
Conclusion: Fecal markers are non-invasive, simple, cheap, sensitive and specific parameters and are useful to detect strointestinal inflammation.