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Reged: 12/09/02
Posts: 7677
Loc: Seattle, WA
The Science of IBS - Postinfectious IBS and Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth
      09/30/06 03:23 PM

The Science of IBS
From Medscape General Medicine™
MedGenMed Gastroenterology
IBS -- Review and What's New

Postinfectious IBS
The presence of postinfectious (PI)-IBS, referring to the development of IBS symptoms -- particularly abdominal pain and diarrhea -- shortly after an enteric infection, is based on research from prospective studies in which IBS symptoms developed in 7% to 32% of patients after they recovered from bacterial gastroenteritis.[52,55,56] Specific risk factors for the development of PI-IBS have been identified, including younger age, female sex, presence of severe infectious gastroenteritis for a prolonged period, use of antibiotics to treat this infection, and presence of concomitant psychological disorders (eg, anxiety).[39,52,55,57] Difficulty in downregulating intestinal inflammation in the colonic mucosa has been suggested as a potential underlying mechanism in this condition.[52] Also suggested as a potential underlying mechanism is the presence of colonic changes shown in patients with PI-IBS compared with controls, including increased gut permeability, increased mucosal enterochromaffin cell production, and increased concentration of mast cells and T lymphocytes in the gut mucosa.[39,52,55,57] Despite considerable evidence linking IBS with an inflammatory etiology (perhaps triggered by enteric infection), in a controlled trial of patients with PI-IBS, anti-inflammatory treatment with prednisolone was not more effective than placebo in improving patient symptoms.[58] The true role of prior infection as a key factor in PI-IBS remains to be established.[59]

The use of probiotics (products containing live or attenuated bacteria that have a positive effect on the host) in alleviating symptoms in patients with PI-IBS is an area of recent focus.[60,61] The potential utility of probiotics in this setting stems from their antibacterial, antiviral, and immune-modulating properties; their ability to modify intestinal flora; and their potential to enhance intestinal mucus secretion or influence stool consistency or volume and gas handling.[60] The number of studies evaluating the efficacy of probiotic preparations in patients with IBS is limited but growing.[60-68] Because trials vary in study design, dose, and strain (Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria alone or in combination; mixture of Lactobacillus, Bifidobacteria, and Streptococcus), direct comparison of results is challenging. Overall, some degree of IBS symptom improvement has been demonstrated in symptoms such as abdominal pain,[65,66] bloating,[63,66] gas,[66] and daily symptom scores.[62,65] O'Mahoney and colleagues[60] have recently demonstrated that results with the Bifidobacterium infantis strain are particularly promising. In a separate analysis, these investigators showed that the baseline characteristics of urgency and hard stool increased the odds ratio of response to this strain, whereas straining and alcohol consumption reduced the likelihood of response.[69,70] The ultimate place in therapy of probiotics in IBS remains to be elucidated.

Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth
The presence of a higher than usual population of bacteria in the small intestine (leading to bacterial fermentation of poorly digestible starches and subsequent gas production) has been proposed as a potential etiologic factor in IBS.[71] Pimentel and colleagues have shown that, when measured by the lactose hydrogen breath test (LHBT), small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) has been detected in 78% to 84% of patients with IBS.[71,72] However, the accuracy of the LHBT in testing for the presence of SIBO has been questioned.[73] Sensitivity of the LHBT for SIBO has been shown to be as low as 16.7%, and specificity approximately 70%.[74] Additionally, this test may suboptimally assess treatment response.[75] The glucose breath test has been shown to be a more reliable tool,[76] with a 75% sensitivity for SIBO[77] vs 39% with LHBT for the "double-peak" method of SIBO detection.[74] In a recently conducted retrospective study involving review of patient charts for the presence of gastrointestinal-related symptoms (including IBS) in patients who were referred for glucose hydrogen breath tests for SIBO, of 113 patients who met Rome II criteria for IBS, 11% tested positive for SIBO.[78] Thus, results demonstrated that IBS symptoms are often unrelated to the presence of SIBO. Despite the controversy regarding the contribution of SIBO to the underlying pathophysiology of IBS and its symptoms, short-term placebo-controlled clinical studies with select antibiotics, including neomycin and rifaximin, have demonstrated symptom improvement in IBS patients.[61,72,79] Antibiotics may therefore have potential utility in select subgroups of IBS patients in whom SIBO contributes to symptoms. However, the chronic nature of IBS symptoms often leads to the need for long-term treatment. Given the fact that long-term use of antibiotics is generally undesirable, the place of antibiotics in IBS therapy remains to be established.[73]

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