King George VIby John Aitken

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”

This quote is taken from King George VI Christmas message of 1939 to the world.

The King had recently overcome his speech impediment and he undertook a radio broadcast to the Empire. World War 2 had just begun, and Great Britain was moving into the darkest days of the War.

By late 1941 the tide was turning. The second battle of Alamein had been won by the 8th Army, and on the 27th of November, 1941 the British relieved the predominantly Australian garrison at the key port of Tobruk. On the 7th of December, 1941 the United States entered the War.

Winston Churchill announced the change in fortunes for the British Empire, since the dark days of 1939, and instructed that the Church bells all over Britain be rung for the first time since the outbreak of the War. In his speech to the nation, he used the phrase: “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

It is now the end of 2015. For Crohn’s patients this year has been a time of great change. In the middle of the battle against this illness, there is some reason to hope. The early information on the use of AMAT therapy is encouraging. For some of the researchers, there is the feeling that we are beginning to understand something of the possible mechanisms that may be triggering the onset of this horrible disease.

Understanding the tactics of the enemy is essential to be able to direct therapy for the benefit of the patient. It is highly likely that the questions surrounding the mode of infection and inflammation triggered by this organism will soon be answered. To my simple mind, this is the door that must be opened to commence meaningful discussions with infectious diseases clinicians and gastroenterologists, as to the next steps to be taken.

General interest from the wider scientific community will bring many new resources into the search for new and novel therapies. Patient pressure on the medical establishment will increase, as new discoveries come to light.

2015 has been a hard year for many, and now we are looking at the New Year, and wondering what it will bring. I am usually a fairly realistic person, and have never been described as an optimist. In our area of research, however, there are some rays of hope that those who are researching Crohn’s disease are moving closer to an answer. The array of new tools, offered by advances in molecular analysis, are being brought to bear on IBD, mainly through the study of the gut microbiome. The more researchers studying Crohn’s and the relationship to microorganisms, the better for the patient. The shift in direction indirectly signals an interest in the role of bacteria, rather than the tired mantra, “It’s the body attacking itself.”

2016 is another year for some, and the daily battle against disease goes on. On the university and medical laboratory benches, however, the focus is changing. There is room for cautious optimism.

Churchill’s speech quoted above, reminded his audience that, “In all her wars England always wins one battle – the last. It would seem to have begun rather earlier this time.”

Not the end, but perhaps the end of the beginning?

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