Reduced total serum bilirubin levels are associated with ulcerative colitis

Kathleen M. Schieffer, Shannon M. Bruffy, Richard Rauscher, Walter A. Koltun, Gregory S. Yochum, Carla J. Gallagher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Chronic inflammation associated with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) results in increased oxidative stress that damages the colonic microenvironment. Low levels of serum bilirubin, an endogenous antioxidant, have been associated with increased risk for Crohn's disease (CD). Therefore, the aim of this study was to examine whether total serum bilirubin levels are associated with ulcerative colitis (UC). We identified a retrospective case-control population (n = 6,649) from a single tertiary care center, Penn State Hershey Medical Center (PSU) and a validation cohort (n = 1,996) from Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center (VCU). Cases were age- and sex-matched to controls (PSU: CD n = 254, UC n = 187; VCU: CD n = 233, UC n = 124). Total serum bilirubin levels were obtained from de-identified medical records and segregated into quartiles. Logistic regression analysis was performed on each quartile of total serum bilirubin compared to the last quartile (highest bilirubin levels) to determine the association of total serum bilirubin with UC. Similar to CD patients, UC patients demonstrated reduced levels of total serum bilirubin compared to controls at PSU and VCU. The lowest quartile of total serum bilirubin was independently associated with UC for the PSU (OR: 1.98 [95% CI: 1.09-3.63]) and VCU cohorts (OR: 6.07 [95% CI: 3.01-12.75]). Lower levels of the antioxidant bilirubin may reduce the capability of UC patients to remove reactive oxygen species leading to an increase in intestinal injury. Therapeutics that reduce oxidative stress may be beneficial for these patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0179267
JournalPloS one
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General


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