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University of Wisconsin Oshkosh microbiologist Todd Sandrin is searching for genetic markers that could lead to a faster and more accurate diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a disorder of the intestines that affects more than 40 million Americans.

Currently, doctors must rule out all other gastrointestinal tract abnormalities, such as allergies, bacterial infections and colon cancer, before making an IBS diagnosis.

“There are significant costs on the patient and the health-care system as multiple tests and therapies are tried on a trial and error basis,” Sandrin said.

The research project, which will include opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students, will involve screening samples from IBS patients for DNA, protein and microbial biomarkers. Sandrin is collaborating on the work with Dr. Steven Yale of the Marshfield Clinic.

Identifying and validating the biomarkers could lead to a better understanding of the disease as well as a new diagnostic test for IBS.

UW Oshkosh recently received a combined amount of $3,000 from UW System and WiSys for work on this project.