Scientists in the UK have discovered a major cause of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) which is linked to our DNA.

A weak spot in the DNA is present in 95% of people with the disease, which can affect immune cells which then leads to excessive inflammation in the bowels.

Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are the most common forms of inflammatory bowel disease, which affect around half a million people in the UK.

BBC News reports that the team at Francis Crick Institute and University College London found drugs that already exist seem to reverse the disease in laboratory experiments and are now aiming for human trials.

What is causing IBD in our DNA?

IBD is caused by white blood cells called macrophages which flood the linings of the intestines where they release chemicals – called cytokines – that lead to massive inflammation.

Inflammation is part of the body’s normal response to infection, but too much for too long can have devastating health consequences.

The researchers found a section of DNA which is the macrophage’s “master regulator” of inflammation.

BBC News adds: "The gene controls the suite of inflammatory chemicals the macrophages release, and some people are born with a version that make their body prone to responding excessively."

@uktoday_ Are there benefits to drinking red wine? I happily found out. 🍷 #uknews #redwine #winetimе #uknewsheadlines ♬ original sound - UKToday 🇬🇧 Newsquest

Dr James Lee, from the Francis Crick Institute, explained: “This is undoubtedly one of the central pathways that goes wrong for people to get inflammatory bowel disease.

“It is the process by which one of the most important cells that causes inflammatory bowel disease goes wrong.”

The researchers also found that drugs that are already approved for other conditions such as cancer were able to calm this excessive inflammation.

However, they need to find a way of targeting just the macrophages so they do not cause side effects throughout the body so they hope to start clinical trials within five years.

Recommended reading:

Inflammatory Bowl Disease symptoms

According to the NHS website, symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease can include:

  • diarrhoea that lasts longer than 4 weeks
  • tummy pain
  • blood or mucus (clear slime) in your poo
  • bleeding from your bottom
  • feeling tired all the time
  • losing weight without trying

Treatments to ease the symptoms of IBD include using steroids and other medicines or having surgery to remove part of your bowel if symptoms are severe.