18.10.2018 World’s largest gastroenterologist congress coming to Vienna UEG Week to bring 13,000 internal medicine specialists to Austria

UEG Week 2018 Reizdarm

The world’s largest specialist gastroenterological congress will take place in the capital from 20-24 October. Chaired by an Austrian, the scientific committee has drawn up a broad-based programme related to diseases of the digestive tract and its related organs. Core themes include bowel cancer as well as the intestinal microbiome and its influence on the human body and psyche. 

“Conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome are on the increase, particularly among young people aged between 14 and 18, and the same applies to their chances of contracting colorectal cancer in the future,” explained Prof. Herbert Tilg, Director of the Medical University of Innsbruck’s Department of Internal Medicine I, President of the Austrian Society for Gastroenterology and Hepatology and Chair of the United European Gastroenterology (UEG) Week scientific committee. “Around 10-20% of the Austrian population already suffers from some form of chronic intestinal condition and studies show that the number of cases of intestinal cancer is set to rise in Europe over the next few years, particularly among younger people. A development which has already manifested itself in the USA,” Tilg said. He adds that the main causes are thought to be linked to lifestyle factors and eating habits, which have a direct bearing on intestinal flora. 

Essential tenants
The term ‘intestinal microbiome’ applies to the ecological community of organisms that share our body space, populate the intestines and play an essential role in the process of digestion and overall function of the human body. In adults, the microbiome can weigh up to one kilogram and, in addition to fungi and viruses, comprises 98 percent bacteria. “Imagining the microbiome as an orchestra for a moment, it has around 1,000 performers, i.e. different strains of bacteria that live in symbiosis with the host and without which many metabolic processes would not be possible,” Tilg explained. These microorganism enable us to digest the food that we eat, by breaking down compounds that the body would not be able to deal with on its own. Many of these compounds that arise in the intestines not only have a direct influence on our immune system, but as messenger substances also control many of the body’s other processes and influence its organs, not least of all the brain. 

Influence on body and soul
“The microbiome contains one hundred times more information than the human genome and it is only thanks to technological advances of the past few years that we have been able to start working with this vast volume of data,” Prof. Tilg said. “The complex connections between the microbiome and the development of physical and mental illnesses are fascinating, but we are still very much at the beginning.” Studies conducted on mice reveal that the microbiome not only has an influence on inflammation in the body, but also affects the development of depression and diseases including diabetes, dementia and colorectal cancer. “We have already managed to pinpoint a number of bacteria that, when present in a certain quantity, signify a direct link to intestinal cancer. With this now established, the long term goal is to come up with a quick and painless cancer diagnosis for patients via a stool sample. The learning curve for microbiome researchers will be extremely steep over the next few years and we are bound to come across unforeseen connections – at the same time the microbiome contains enough research material for entire generations of gastroenterologists,” Tild concluded. 

Press release
Prof. Dr. Herbert Tilg (c) Gerhard Berger
Irritable bowel syndrome (c) IAKW-AG, iStock, Tharakorn
Irritable bowel syndrome illustration (c) IAKW-AG, iStock, magicmine

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IAKW-AG – Austria Center Vienna
Carina Fuchs
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