Is Inflammatory Bowel Disease Contagious?

The Truth Behind The Idea That IBD Could Be Passed On Like A Virus

Multi-generation family serving food at buffet patio
Sometimes IBD does run in families -- but it's not cut and dry. Hero Images/Getty

No, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is not thought to be contagious. The cause of IBD is unknown, but it is thought to have both a genetic and an environmental component. IBD runs in families, but it tends to be more complicated than just being passed from parent to child. If the genetic piece is in place, the environmental component—and no one knows exactly what that is—may work as the trigger to set off the IBD.

There is no evidence to support the idea that IBD can be passed from person to person through casual contact.

A study was done in Belgium in the 90s that investigated married couples who both developed IBD. The researchers thought that because these couples developed IBD after marriage, that IBD must be contagious. The 10 examples cited in the study are thought to be rare. In fact, this occurrence is so rare, it is actually an argument against the idea that IBD can be contagious.


M C Comes, C Gower-Rousseau, J F Colombel, J Belaïche, H J Van Kruiningen, M C Nuttens, and A Cortot. "Inflammatory bowel disease in married couples: 10 cases in Nord Pas de Calais region of France and Liège county of Belgium." Gut Sept 1994 35:1316–1318. 

Laharie D, Debeugny S, Peeters M, Van Gossum A, Gower-Rousseau C, Bélaïche J, Fiasse R, Dupas JL, Lerebours E, Piotte S, Cortot A, Vermeire S, Grandbastien B, Colombel JF. "Inflammatory bowel disease in spouses and their offspring." Gastroenterology Mar 2001 120:816-819.

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