Poo protein flushes out unnecessary gastro tests

20 November 2019

Using a stool test to measure protein in poo can reduce the number of patients undergoing invasive colonoscopies, reducing costs for individuals and the health system.

University of Queensland researcher Dr Yoon-Kyo An said levels of the calprotectin protein in poo, can differentiate between gastrointestinal diseases (GI) like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and cancer, which are organic, and gastrointestinal disorders (GIDs), which are functional.

“By conducting a simple stool test, doctors can rule out further invasive examinations for patients with normal levels of the protein, and refer those with high levels to specialists to rule out organic gastrointestinal disease,” Dr An said.

Functional GI disease and organic GI disease have similar symptoms, making it difficult for GPs to distinguish between the two. This leads to many unnecessary referrals to specialists for conditions that can be effectively managed by GPs.

Functional gastrointestinal disorders are common and persistent with recurring symptoms.

“They are caused by abnormal function of the gastrointestinal system, rather than structural or biochemical abnormalities,” Dr An said.

“In comparison, organic gastrointestinal disorders are conditions with pathology such as inflammatory bowel disease, colorectal cancer, large polyps and diverticulitis, which frequently require colonoscopy for diagnosis and characterisation.

Young adults between 20 and 50 years old  experiencing chronic diarrhoea and abdominal pain would benefit most from the stool test,” Dr An said.

The Gastroenterological Society of Australia will use the findings to support an application to have faecal calprotectin testing reimbursed by Medicare. The test currently costs upwards of $80 privately.

Media: Faculty of Medicine Communications, med.media@uq.edu.au, +61 7 3365 5118, +61 436 368 746.