Fluid transport was gravimetrically measured in vivo in the duodenum, jejunum, and ileum of anaesthetised fed, 72 hour starved and 72 hour starved rats refed for up to five days after starvation. Basal unstimulated fluid transport was monitored by instilling 0.9% NaCl into the lumen and measuring the gain or loss in weight of the closed intestinal loop. Fluid was absorbed in all the areas of the intestine in the fed rats. Increasing basal fluid absorption was observed in the duodenum over the three days of starvation but in the jejunum there was no significant change. In the ileum, the pattern was very different, on day 1 the fluid was absorbed but on days 2 and 3 there was an increasing secretion of fluid. Refeeding the rats with their normal diet restored the basal absorption of fluid in the duodenum within 24 hours, had no effect in the jejunum but in the case of the ileum the hypersecretion of fluid observed in the day 3 starved rat was maintained on day 1 of refeeding, increased further on day 2, decreased on day 3 but returned to absorption on day 4. The normal absorption was restored to the ileum on day 5 of refeeding. Fluid secretion was induced in all the rat groups by bethanechol (ip 60 micrograms/kg bw) a stable cholinergic agonist, PGE2 (ip 10 micrograms/kg (bw) and E coli STa (luminally instilled, 500 ng/ml) a secretory enterotoxin. All the secretagogues gave enhanced secretion compared with the fed by day 2 of starvation which increased considerably on day 3. Refeeding returned their secretion back to the fed level in the duodenum within 24 hours, in the jejunum within 48 hours but in the ileum their induced secretion on day 2 of refeeding was greater than that of the day 2 of refeeding was greater than that of day 3 starved and took until day 4 to return to the fed levels for behanechol and PGE2 and until day 5 for E. coli STa. This behaviour of rat small intestine showing even greater hypersecretion in the refed state than the starved mimics the human condition of alimentary induced diarrhoea where incautious feeding of starved humans induces severe, often lethal diarrhoea. The refed starved rat appears to be a possible model for this condition.
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