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Health and Wellness

Hong Kong university gets HK$14 million grant to fight escalating rates of bowel disease

Institution to coordinate studies with foreign and Chinese laboratories into inflammatory bowel disease increasingly prevalent in Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 April, 2017, 8:03pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 April, 2017, 2:19pm

The Chinese University of Hong Kong has been granted HK$14 million by a charitable trust to fund key research with scientists abroad into an inflammatory bowel disease afflicting seven times more Hongkongers than two decades ago.

Vice-chancellor Professor Joseph Sung Jao-yiu said the institution would over the next three years recruit patients suffering from Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory bowel condition increasingly prevalent in Asia, to take part in studies co-run with research centres on the mainland and in Australia looking to solve the medical puzzle behind the illness.

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He said Asia was a “hot zone” for the disease where the number of cases had continued to rise, and Australia had one of the highest incidences worldwide.

The country sees 14 in every 100,000 people diagnosed with Crohn’s disease every year. In Hong Kong, the incidence has increased sevenfold from 0.2 cases per 100,000 persons in 1995 to 1.5 in 2014.

On the mainland the disease is also increasing widespread. It is expected there will be more than 1.5 million cases by 2025, according to the university.

“Through this cross-regional cooperation, we hope the cause of Crohn’s disease can be found,” said Sung, a gastroenterologist.

“We hope it will help translate our understanding on gut microbiota [microorganisms] into the development of better drugs and precaution treatment.”

The onset of Crohn’s disease usually occurs in childhood or early adult life and leaves lifelong symptoms that can affect any part of the digestive tract from the mouth to the anus.

The tract can become affected by inflammation, ulcers or even bleeding. Treatment usually involves drug therapy or sometimes surgery.

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Some studies suggest Crohn’s disease may be closely linked to living environments and eating habits.

The study will look into previous research on the disease in Australia and the recent rise of the condition in Hong Kong and on the mainland, said professor Ng Siew-chien of the department of medicine and therapeutics.

The university will be the coordinator of key laboratories for the study, leading other clinical centres in Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Xian.

The grant for the project has come from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust in New York.