Researchers conducted a meta-analysis to evaluate the clinical relevance of differentially expressed microRNAs (miRNAs) for the diagnosis of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), including ulcerative colitis (UC). According to the report in The Journal of International Medical Research, “expression of some miRNAs was altered in patients with IBD and showed moderate diagnostic accuracy in distinguishing patients with IBD from healthy controls or patients with other diseases.”

Specifically, investigators highlighted that miR-21, miR-16, and miR-192 met “a clinical practice requirement through their consistent alteration in the blood of patients with IBD.” Furthermore, they noted that “the diagnostic accuracy of miRNAs was more obvious in UC patients and in distinguishing IBD from healthy controls.”

The researchers reviewed the PubMed, EMBASE, Web of Science, Cochrane Library, and Cochrane IBD Group Specialized Register for studies related to IBD, Crohn’s disease, and UC that had reported on miRNAs. Analysts used random-effects models to calculate the sensitivity, specificity, positive likelihood ratio, negative likelihood ratio, diagnostic odds ratio (DOR), and area under the curve (AUC) for various miRNAs in diagnosing IBD.

A total of 15 studies were selected for the final analysis, encompassing 937 patients with IBD, 707 healthy controls, 22 miRNAs, and 2 miRNA panels. According to the researchers, “pooled analyses showed a moderate diagnostic accuracy for miRNAs in the IBD diagnosis, with a sensitivity of 0.80 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.79–0.82), specificity of 0.84 (95% CI, 0.82–0.86), DOR of 21.19 (95% CI, 13.90–32.31), and AUC of 0.89.” Notably, the diagnostic efficacy of miRNAs was greater in the UC subgroup (AUC = 0.93) than in the Crohn’s subgroup (AUC = 0.84).

Though the authors supported the validity of their findings, they acknowledged that larger studies with both single- and combined-miRNA assays are needed to confirm the diagnostic potential of miRNAs for IBD.