Background & aims: Antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibodies (ANCA) have been consistently detected in a subgroup of patients with Crohn's disease (CD). This study was designed to determine whether serum ANCA expression in patients with CD characterizes an identifiable clinical subgroup.
Methods: The study population consisted of 69 consecutive patients with an established diagnosis of CD as determined by a combination of characteristic clinical, radiographic, endoscopic, and histopathologic criteria. Sera from the patients were analyzed for the presence of ANCAs using the fixed neutrophil enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) assay. Perinuclear ANCA (pANCA)-positive and cytoplasmic ANCA (cANCA)-positive results by ELISA were confirmed by indirect immunofluorescence staining. Clinical profiles of the ANCA-positive patients with CD were compared with those of patients with CD not expressing ANCA (ANCA-negative).
Results: pANCA-positive patients with CD have endoscopically and/or histopathologically documented left-sided colitis and symptoms of left-sided colonic inflammation, clinically reflected by rectal bleeding and mucus discharge, urgency, and treatment with topical agents. One hundred percent of patients with CD expressing pANCA had "UC-like" features.
Conclusions: In patients with CD, serum pANCA expression characterizes a UC-like clinical phenotype. Stratification of CD by serum pANCA provides evidence of heterogeneity within CD and suggests a common intestinal mucosal inflammatory process among a definable subgroup of patients with CD and UC expressing this marker.