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J Med Microbiol. 1997 Jan;46(1):80-4.

Effect of lactulose on short-chain fatty acids and lactate production and on the growth of faecal flora, with special reference to Clostridium difficile.

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First Department of Internal Medicine, Gifu University School of Medicine, Japan.


Lactulose exerts a beneficial effect on hepatic encephalopathy by decreasing toxic short-chain (iC4-nC6) fatty acid (isobutyrate, butyrate, isovalerate, valerate, isocaproate and caproate) production. However, the precise mechanism by which lactulose exerts this effect remains uncertain. This study investigated the effect of lactulose on faecal flora, particularly Clostridium difficile, which produces mostly iC4-nC6 fatty acids. An in-vitro faecal incubation system was used to estimate how lactulose influences production of short-chain (C2-nC6) fatty acids and lactate. Faecal specimens were collected from patients with liver cirrhosis, who carried C. difficile in the colon. Supplementation of lactulose along with blood in faecal specimens decreased iC4-nC6 fatty acids production and increased acetate and lactate production, resulting in increased faecal acidity. These changes were statistically significant when compared with supplementation by blood alone. Quantitative faecal culture demonstrated that lactulose supplementation suppressed the growth of C. difficile and Bacteroides spp. (B. fragilis group), iC4-nC6 fatty acids-producing organisms. These results suggest that decreased faecal levels of iC4-nC6 fatty acids after lactulose supplementation may be related to suppression of iC4-nC6 fatty acids-producing faecal organisms, especially C. difficile.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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