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BMJ Open Gastroenterol. 2017 Oct 21;4(1):e000156. doi: 10.1136/bmjgast-2017-000156. eCollection 2017.

A Swedish national adoption study of risk of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

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Center for Primary Health Care Research, Lund University/Region SKåne, Malmö, Sweden.



Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) clusters in families, but the familial risk of IBS has not been determined in adoptees. Studying adoptees and their biological and adoptive parents is a strong study design for separating genetic from environmental causes of familial clustering. This nationwide study aimed to separate the biological (genetic) and familial environmental contribution to the familial transmission of IBS.


We performed a family study for Swedish-born adoptees born from 1951 until 1995, and their biological and adoptive parents. The Swedish Multigeneration Register was linked to the Hospital Register (inpatients and outpatients) for the period 1964-2012 and the Swedish Outpatient Care Register for 2001-2012, and the Swedish Primary Healthcare register for 1989-2012. ORs for IBS were calculated for adoptees with an affected biological parent with IBS compared with adoptees without a biological parent with IBS. The OR for IBS was also determined in adoptees with an adoptive parent with IBS compared with adoptees without an adoptive parent with IBS. Heritability h2 (±SE) was also determined.


The ORs for IBS were 1.67 in adoptees (95% CI 1.06 to 2.62) of biological parents diagnosed with IBS. The ORs for IBS were 0.88 in adoptees (95% CI 0.48 to 1.63) of adoptive parents diagnosed with IBS. The heritability was 19.5%±8.5%.


The present study indicates that biological (genetic) factors are important for the familial clustering of IBS. The heritability calculated is in the range from twin studies and suggests that heritability may be estimated in adoptees.


epidemiology; genetics; irritable bowel syndrome

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