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Blood Test to Diagnose IBS

New Diagnostic Blood Test for IBS

Scientists have now developed a blood test for antibodies that target the vinculin protein in the body. This test could be used to determine if a condition is related to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or not. Researchers report that if confirmed, this will be the first serum-based diagnostic test for IBS. Because of limited diagnostic materials, IBS has previously been difficult to diagnose.

Because of the diagnostic limitations associated with IBS, a team of researchers sought to find an alternative testing solution. They presented their findings at the American College of Gastroenterology 2013 Annual Scientific Meeting. Lead researcher, Dr. Mark Pimentel with Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, reports that before there were limited clinical criteria for the diagnosis of IBS.

Researchers Believe IBS Patients have a Certain Bacteria in the Bowels

Over the years, researchers have accumulated evidence that many people with IBS have bouts of acute gastroenteritis when the disease process begins. In both human and animal studies, acute gastroenteritis has been found to lead to excessive bacterial growth in the small intestine. Cytolethal distending toxin B, produced by certain bacteria, has been found to play a key role in the IBS process.

Pimentel and colleagues concluded that antibodies that target the cytolethal distending toxin B will cross-react with vinculin, which is a adherence protein located on the nerves and epithelium. This could lead to nerve damage that is a contributing factor with IBS. The researchers conducted a multicenter study to test whether or not antivinculin antibodies could be used as IBS biomarkers.

Study Shows IBS Participants have Antivinculin Antibodies with ELISA

IBS researchers used 165 study participants who were diagnosed with IBS using the Rome criteria, as well as 30 patients with inflammatory bowel disease and 26 control subjects. The participants excluded had various concomitant gastrointestinal diseases, as well as diabetes, thyroid conditions, and HIV. When study subjects underwent enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) testing, the IBS patients had more antivinculin antibodies than the participants with inflammatory bowel disease or those healthy subjects.

According to lead researcher Dr. Pimentel, this data could be used to diagnose irritable bowel syndrome. The team of scientists plans to conduct further research to see if the test will actually predict bacterial overgrowth in those participants who have IBS, and see which patients will respond to antibiotic therapy. While the data is preliminary, many case-controlled studies are needed before accuracy of the test is confirmed.


The researchers believe that this is a starting point to creating a test for the diagnosis of IBS, a condition that has been troublesome for patients who live with it and doctors who try to diagnose and treat it. The IBS test will have to be refined, further fine-tuned, and cleared through governing laboratory associations.


American College of Gastroenterology (ACG) 2013 Annual Scientific Meeting and Postgraduate Course: Abstract 8. Presented October 14, 2013. Retrieved from:

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