Experts from Belgium were able to identify a medicine that could reduce or end the abnormal pain in patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). According to the researchers at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KU Leuven), the selected medicine is already used to treat hay fever.

According to the researchers, patients with IBS suffer from extremely sensitive bowels that increase pain perception. They compare this sensitivity to the skin’s heightened sensitivity to hot water after getting sunburn. Apparently, experts around the world did not know the exact cause of this hypersensitivity, until now. Additionally, the bowels of IBS patients contain larger amount of histamine, but the link with hypersensitivity had not been explained.

Finally, Guy Boeckxstaens, a professor of gastroenterology at KU Leuven, has shown that histamine influences the pain receptor TRPV1. Boeckxstaens’ team uncovered that histamine interferes with the histamine 1 receptor, which is located on nerves that contain TRPV1, making TRPV1 hypersensitive.

Blocking the histamine 1 receptor hindered the sensitising effect of histamine on TRPV1. The researchers say that these discoveries identify the mechanism of increased pain perception in patients with IBS.

Because of the results, the team designed a pilot clinical study in IBS to assess the effect of a substance that blocks the histamine 1 receptor on the nerves to prevent the increased sensitivity of TRPV1. The research team claim this substance is ebastine, which is already incorporated in medicines to treat hay fever.

Moreover, the researchers noted that the people who were treated with ebastine for 12 weeks reported significantly less abdominal pain compared to the patients who were included in the control group. Boeckxstaens added that the team will conduct a follow-up study that will test the effects of ebastine on 200 people with IBS.

Irritable bowel syndrome is a disease that affects about 10 to 15 percent of the population, the team added. Treatments remain to be restricted to normalising defecation pattern, which cannot stop or at least reduce the pain from the disease. The researchers believe that the results of their study will change that.