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Gut. 2007 Jun;56(6):802-8. Epub 2006 Dec 5.

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth in patients with irritable bowel syndrome.

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Department of Internal Medicine, Sahlgrenska University Hospital, 41345 Göteborg, Sweden.



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.


To assess the prevalence of SIBO, by culture of small-bowel aspirate, and its correlation to symptoms and motility in IBS.


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 (>/=10(5) colonic bacteria/ml), and mildly increased counts of small-bowel bacteria (>/=95th centile in controls).


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 (>/=5x10(3)/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.


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.

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