Surrogate Fecal Biomarkers in Inflammatory Bowel Disease: Rivals or Complementary Tools of Fecal Calprotectin?

Inflamm Bowel Dis. 2017 Dec 19;24(1):78-92. doi: 10.1093/ibd/izx011.


Background: Current noninvasive methods for assessing intestinal inflammation in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) remain unsatisfactory. Along with C-reactive protein and erythrocyte sedimentation rate, fecal calprotectin (FC) is the standard test for assessing IBD activity, even though its specificity and accuracy are not optimal and it lacks a validated cutoff. Over the past few decades, several fecal markers released from intestinal inflammatory cells have been investigated in IBD; they are the subject of this systematic review.

Methods: A systematic electronic search of the English literature up to April 2017 was performed using Medline and the Cochrane Library. Only papers written in English that analyzed fecal biomarkers in IBD were included. In vitro studies, animal studies, studies on blood/serum samples, and studies analyzing FC or fecal lactoferrin alone were excluded.

Results: Out of 1023 citations, 125 eligible studies were identified. Data were grouped according to each fecal marker including S100A12, high-mobility group box 1, neopterin, polymorphonuclear neutrophil elastase, fecal hemoglobin, alpha1-antitrypsin, human neutrophil peptides, neutrophil gelatinase-associated lipocalin, chitinase 3-like-1, matrix metalloproteinase 9, lysozyme, M2-pyruvate kinase, myeloperoxidase, fecal eosinophil proteins, human beta-defensin-2, and beta-glucuronidase. Some of these markers showed a high sensitivity and specificity and correlated with disease activity, response to therapy, and mucosal healing. Furthermore, they showed a potential utility in the prediction of clinical relapse.

Conclusions: Several fecal biomarkers have the potential to become useful tools complementing FC in IBD diagnosis and monitoring. However, wide variability in their accuracy in assessment of intestinal inflammation suggests the need for further studies.

Keywords: Crohn’s disease; IBD; fecal markers; ulcerative colitis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / metabolism*
  • Feces / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / metabolism
  • Leukocyte L1 Antigen Complex / metabolism*
  • Severity of Illness Index*


  • Biomarkers
  • Leukocyte L1 Antigen Complex