Background: Patients with Crohn's disease have increased intestinal permeability, which may precede the development of clinical disease and be involved in disease pathogenesis. Subsequent studies have suggested that, as a group, first-degree relatives of patients with Crohn's disease do not have significantly increased small intestinal permeability rates. The present study proposes that conventional data analysis, used in these studies, may be inappropriate and has overlooked an important observation.
Methods: Lactulose and mannitol permeabilities were defined in healthy controls and in patients with Crohn's disease and their first-degree relatives.
Results: Intestinal permeability in relatives was similar to that in the control group, but a subpopulation had abnormally high permeability rates in the absence of clinical evidence for disease. Raw data from another investigator confirmed this finding in an additional study; consequently, it is concluded that the original hypothesis is still viable. A small proportion of individuals, at high risk of developing Crohn's disease, have increased intestinal permeability.
Conclusions: Increased intestinal permeability may precede clinical manifestations of Crohn's disease.