Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a functional disorder defined by symptoms in the absence of overt pathology. Colonic spirochetosis (CS), defined by histologic observation of spirochetal strains of Brachyspira in colonic biopsies, is uncommon and considered of doubtful significance. We aimed to determine the prevalence of CS in the general population, identify subtle colon pathologies, and evaluate a link with symptoms of IBS. Colonoscopy was performed in 745 subjects (aged 19-70 years, mean age 51 years, 43% male) with biopsies (ileum and 4 colonic sites) from a random population sample, Stockholm, Sweden, who completed a validated questionnaire of gastrointestinal symptoms; IBS was identified by Rome III criteria. CS was identified by histology and immunohistochemistry. In a general population, 17 individuals (2.28%; 95% confidence interval, 1.2%-3.5%) were diagnosed as having CS by histology; 6 (35%) had IBS. CS was always present in the sigmoid colon, but only 14 rectal biopsies. Eosinophils were increased in colon biopsies in CS cases versus controls, in the transverse (P = .02), sigmoid colon (P = .001), and rectum (P = .0005) with subepithelial eosinophil clusters (P = .053). Lymphoid follicles (at any site) were present in 13 CS (P = .0003). There was a 3-fold increased risk of IBS in CS (odds ratio, 3.59; 95% confidence interval, 1.27-10.11; P = .015). Polyps and diverticular disease were similar in CS cases and controls. The prevalence of CS in a general population is 2% and associated with nonconstipating IBS. Colonic eosinophilia with lymphoid follicles may signify the presence of CS.
Keywords: Colonic spirochetosis; Eosinophils; Histopathology; Infective colitis; Irritable bowel syndrome.
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