Current insights into the innate immune system dysfunction in irritable bowel syndrome

Authors Nikolaos Lazaridis, Georgios Germanidis.


Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a functional bowel disorder associated with abdominal pain and alterations in bowel habits. The presence of IBS greatly impairs patients’ quality of life and imposes a high economic burden on the community; thus, there is intense pressure to reveal its elusive pathogenesis. Many etiological mechanisms have been implicated, but the pathophysiology of the syndrome remains unclear. As a result, novel drug development has been slow and no pharmacological intervention is universally accepted. A growing evidence implicates the role of low-grade inflammation and innate immune system dysfunction, although contradictory results have frequently been presented. Mast cells (MC), eosinophils and other key immune cells together with their mediators seem to play an important role, at least in subgroups of IBS patients. Cytokine imbalance in the systematic circulation and in the intestinal mucosa may also characterize IBS presentation. Toll-like receptors and their emerging role in pathogen recognition have also been highlighted recently, as dysregulation has been reported to occur in patients with IBS. This review summarizes the current knowledge regarding the involvement of any immunological alteration in the development of IBS. There is substantial evidence to support innate immune system dysfunction in several IBS phenotypes, but additional studies are required to better clarify the underlying pathogenetic pathways. IBS heterogeneity could potentially be attributed to multiple causes that lead to different disease phenotypes, thus explaining the variability found between study results.

Keywords Irritable bowel syndrome, low-grade inflammation, innate immunity, cytokines, toll-like receptors

Ann Gastroenterol 2018; 31 (2): 171-187

Review Articles