Microscopic colitis is a gastrointestinal (GI) disorder that leads to inflammation of the colon. 

Pathology plays an important diagnostic role in microscopic colitis as the disease doesn’t leave easy clues to its existence. For example, under endoscopic examination performed by GI specialists, the colon usually will appear normal. Tissue biopsies studied under the microscope, however, reveal characteristic histological findings that are far from normal.

In the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, our specialists are engaged in several GI studies to better understand the cause of microscopic colitis and improve care for the small percentage of patients who do not respond to available treatments. Gastrointestinal pathologist Nora Joseph, MD, is studying the differences at the microscopic level between patients who respond well to therapy versus those who don’t. Through this research, the hope is to better personalize treatment to individuals with this disease.

Clostridium difficile colitis (also known as C. diff) is an infectious GI disease that causes significant inflammation of the colon. Antibiotic use serves as the main culprit for triggering this frequently hospital-acquired condition. While most patients respond well to antibiotic therapy and eventually fight off the infection, a small subgroup cannot and may need advanced therapy such as a fecal microbiota transplant. Collaborating with NorthShore’s GI clinical investigators, Dr. Joseph is conducting research to identify the mechanisms causing refractory disease.