Irish-led research could lead to new class of drugs to treat diarrhoea

An Irish-led research group has discovered a means of  regulating intestinal fluids which could lead to the development of new drugs for the treatment of diarrhoea.

The research, conducted by the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland in conjunction with Trinity College Dublin and John Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, directly targets the molecular processes which facilitate the movement of water across the gut wall.

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The team found that drugs which act on a protein called Farnesoid X Receptor (FXR) in the lining of the intestine can stop water moving in to the gut, thus preventing the occurrence of diarrhoea.

“Diarrhoeal diseases are common and debilitating but safe and effective drugs for their treatment are still lacking,” said Dr Stephen Keely, associate director of molecular medicine at RCSI and lead researcher. “Our research has found that FXR is an important regulator of intestinal function and has excellent potential for the development of a new class of anti-diarrhoeal drugs.”

Drugs which act on FXR have the potential to treat a broad range of diarrhoeal diseases with fewer side effects than many existing anti-diarrhoeal medications.

Diarrhoea is a symptom of numerous infectious illnesses as well as inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and other digestive disorders. Diarrhoea is also the main reason for approximately 40,000 visits to gastroenterology clinics in Ireland every year. Diarrhoeal illnesses are a leading cause of morbidity worldwide, and of mortality in developing countries.

The research has been published in the international gastroenterology journal Gut.