Background: Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) has been proposed to be common in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), with altered small-bowel motility as a possible predisposing factor.
Aim: To assess the prevalence of SIBO, by culture of small-bowel aspirate, and its correlation to symptoms and motility in IBS.
Methods: 162 patients with IBS who underwent small-bowel manometry and culture of jejunal aspirate were included. Cultures from 26 healthy subjects served as controls. Two definitions of altered flora were used: the standard definition of SIBO (⩾105 colonic bacteria/ml), and mildly increased counts of small-bowel bacteria (⩾95th centile in controls).
Results: SIBO (as per standard definition) was found in 4% of both patients and controls. Signs of enteric dysmotility were seen in 86% of patients with SIBO and in 39% of patients without SIBO (p = 0.02). Patients with SIBO had fewer phase III activities (activity fronts) than patients without SIBO (p = 0.08), but otherwise no differences in motility parameters were seen. Mildly increased bacterial counts (⩾5×103/ml) were more common in patients with IBS than in controls (43% vs 12%; p = 0.002), but this was unrelated to small intestinal motility. No correlation between bacterial alterations and symptom pattern was observed.
Conclusions: The data do not support an important role for SIBO according to commonly used clinical definitions, in IBS. However, mildly increased counts of small-bowel bacteria seem to be more common in IBS, and needs further investigation. Motility alterations could not reliably predict altered small-bowel bacterial flora.
- GHBT, glucose hydrogen breath test
- IBS, irritable bowel syndrome
- LHBT, lactulose hydrogen breath test
- MMC, migrating motor complex
- SIBO, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth
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