Colonic immune cells in irritable bowel syndrome: A systematic review and meta-analysis.


Background & aims: Increases in mucosal immune cells have frequently been observed in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) patients. However, this finding is not completely consistent between studies, possibly due to a combination of methodological variability, population differences and small sample sizes. We performed a meta-analysis of case-control studies that compared immune cell counts in colonic biopsies of IBS patients and controls.

Methods: PubMed and Embase were searched in February 2017. Results were pooled using standardized mean difference (SMD) and were considered significant when zero was not within the 95% confidence interval (CI). Heterogeneity was assessed based on I2 statistics where I2 ≤ 50% and I2 > 50% indicated fixed and random effect models, respectively.

Key results: Twenty-two studies on 706 IBS patients and 401 controls were included. Mast cells were increased in the rectosigmoid (SMD: 0.38 [95% CI: 0.06-0.71]; P = .02) and descending colon (SMD: 1.69 [95% CI: 0.65-2.73]; P = .001) of IBS patients. Increased mast cells were observed in both constipation (IBS-C) and diarrhea predominant IBS (IBS-D). CD3+ T cells were increased in the rectosigmoid (SMD: 0.53 [95% CI: 0.21-0.85]; P = .001) and the descending colon of the IBS patients (SMD: 0.79, 95% CI [0.28-1.30]; P = .002). This was possibly in relation to higher CD4+ T cells in IBS (SMD: 0.33 [95% CI: 0.01-0.65]; P = .04) as there were no differences in CD8+ T cells.

Conclusions & inferences: Mast cells and CD3+ T cells are increased in colonic biopsies of patients with IBS vs non-inflamed controls. These changes are segmental and sometimes IBS-subtype dependent. The diagnostic value of the quantification of colonic mucosal cells in IBS requires further investigation.

Neurogastroenterol Motility
Shirin Moossavi
Shirin Moossavi
Postdoctoral Fellow