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Inhibitory effects of Lactobacillus reuteri on visceral pain induced by colorectal distension in Sprague-Dawley rats
  1. T Kamiya,
  2. L Wang,
  3. P Forsythe,
  4. G Goettsche,
  5. Y Mao,
  6. Y Wang,
  7. G Tougas,
  8. J Bienenstock
  1. Intestinal Disease Research Program, McMaster University and The Brain-Body Institute, St Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
  1. Correspondence to:
    Dr J Bienenstock
    The Brain-Body Institute, St Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, Department of Pathology & Molecular Medicine, McMaster University, 50 Charlton Avenue, E Martha Wing, Room H304, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada L8N 4A6; bienens{at}


Background and aims: Probiotic bacteria are being investigated as possible treatments for many intestinal disorders. The present study aimed to explore the effects of live, heat killed, or gamma irradiated Lactobacillus reuteri on cardio-autonomic response and single fibre unit discharge in dorsal root ganglia to colorectal distension in healthy Sprague-Dawley rats housed under conventional conditions. The effects of this treatment on somatic pain were also examined.

Methods: 1×109 bacteria were given by gavage for nine days. Colorectal distension occurred under anaesthesia. Heart rate was measured through continuous electrocardiography. Single fibre unit discharge was recorded from the 6th left lumbar dorsal root ganglion. Somatic pain was evaluated by the tail flick and paw pressure tests.

Results: Colorectal distension caused a pressure dependent bradycardia in the control (native medium) group. Treatment with live, heat killed, or gamma irradiated bacteria as well as their products (conditioned medium) prevented the pain response even during the maximum distension pressure (80 mm Hg). Both viable and non-viable bacteria significantly decreased dorsal root ganglion single unit activity to distension. No effects on somatic pain were seen with any treatment.

Conclusions: Oral administration of either live or killed probiotic bacteria or conditioned medium inhibited the constitutive cardio-autonomic response to colorectal distension in rats through effects on enteric nerves. These data may provide a novel explanation for beneficial probiotic effects on visceral pain.

  • IBD, inflammatory bowel disease
  • IBS, irritable bowel syndrome
  • colorectal distension
  • inflammatory bowel disease
  • irritable bowel syndrome
  • Lactobacillus reuteri

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  • Competing interests: none.