Inflammatory bowel disease linked to fecal microplastics: study

File photo: Agencies

NANJING, Feb. 23 (Xinhua) - A Chinese study has found that the concentration of microplastics in human feces is significantly higher among patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), providing new evidence that microplastics may affect gut health.

A total of 102 volunteers from 11 cities and provinces across China were enrolled in the study. Of these, 52 were diagnosed with IBD, while 50 were healthy. The average age of the healthy group was 30.6, while in the IBD group it was 35.

IBD is a group of intestinal disorders that cause digestive-tract inflammation, leading to abdominal pain, cramping and unexplained weight loss. IBD sufferers can relapse easily, and the condition is difficult to cure, carrying a potential cancer risk.

Researchers from Nanjing University in east China's Jiangsu Province collected stool samples from the participants and conducted a questionnaire on their diet, drinking habits, and working and living conditions.

According to the study, which was published in Environmental Science & Technology, the fecal microplastics concentration in the IBD patients was 1.5 times that of the healthy volunteers.

The researchers found 15 types of microplastics in the IBD patients' feces, with polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polyamide the most common types. PET is usually used for beverage and food containers, while the latter is mainly used for food packaging and textiles.

By relating the lifestyle questionnaire to the characteristics of the fecal microplastics found, it was determined that people who have more bottled water, food deliveries and dust exposure have more microplastics in their feces.

The researchers said that their study presents evidence that a positive correlation exists between the concentration of fecal microplastics and the severity of IBD. The research indicates that patients with more severe IBD symptoms tend to have higher fecal microplastic concentrations, while IBD may exacerbate the retention of microplastics. Further studies are needed to reveal the mechanism between the two.

The study also highlighted that fecal microplastics are useful for assessing human microplastics exposure and potential health risks.