Ulcerative Colitis: AI Program Shows Promise in Predicting Flare-Ups

An artificial intelligence (AI) tool shows promise in predicting active disease and flare-ups in people with ulcerative colitis, according to a new study published in Gastroenterology.

Researchers from the Institute of Immunology and Immunotherapy at the University of Birmingham in England and the University College Cork in Ireland developed a computer-aided diagnostic tool to predict the risk of a flare-up in people with ulcerative colitis.

The scientists programmed the system using existing digitized biopsies previously taken for diagnostic purposes. It looked for inflammation markers and white blood cells, which increase when the immune system is activated.

The researchers said the AI system predicted:

  • Disease activity related to ulcerative colitis with 89% accuracy
  • Inflammation at the site of the biopsy with 80% accuracy
  • The researchers said the results are similar to what a pathologist would find, indicating the AI system could correctly identify and predict flares.

The researchers said the value of using an AI system includes:

  • Consistent results – Currently, there isn’t a standard for testing for white blood cells as a predictor of flares. Results come from a pathologist’s interpretation, which could provide varied results.
  • Faster results – Healthcare professionals and patients must wait for results from a pathologist. The speed of the results depends on how quickly a lab can complete the testing and review of the biopsy.

The scientists noted that digitized biopsies, non-invasive procedures completed by imaging, are still not widely available but are becoming more accepted by medical professionals.

Using the AI tool could also be more cost-efficient.

“One of the more difficult parts of treating ulcerative colitis is assessing and measuring improvement in endoscopy and histology,” said Dr. David Hudesman, the medical director of the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center at NYU Langone Health. “We do not know how much improvement is associated with improved long-term outcomes (does a patient need complete healing or is 50% good enough?).”

“Typical treatments include steroids and immunomodulator medications, for example, Humira and Remicade,” said Dr. Hardeep Singh, a gastroenterologist with Providence St Joseph Hospital in California.


Marietta I, Tommaso L. Parigi, Rocio del Amor, et al. (2023). Artificial Intelligence enabled histological prediction of remission or activity and clinical outcomes in ulcerative colitis. Gastroenterology. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1053/j.gastro.2023.02.031 

Eileen Bailey (March 5, 2023). Ulcerative Colitis: AI Program Shows Promise in Predicting Flare-Ups. Healthline. Retrieved March 7, 2023 from: https://www.healthline.com/health-news/ulcerative-colitis-ai-program-shows-promise-in-predicting-flare-ups 
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