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Breath test for differential diagnosis between small intestinal bacterial overgrowth and irritable bowel disease: An observation on non-absorbable antibiotics - Source: World Journal of Gastroenterology, Dec 7, 2007

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By I Esposito, et al. • • December 1, 2007

[Note: The full text of this article is available free at ‘Nonabsorbable’ antiobiotics act in the gastrointestinal tract and are not absorbed into the bloodstream.]

Aim: To estimate the prevalence of small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) among patients with an earlier diagnosis of irritable bowel disease (IBS) in our geographical area, and to collect information on the use of locally acting non-absorbable antibiotics in the management of SIBO.

Methods: A non-interventional study was conducted in 73 consecutive patients with a symptom-based diagnosis.

Results: When the patients underwent a "breath test", 33 (45.2%) showed the presence of a SIBO. After treatment with rifaximin 1200 mg/d for seven days in 32 patients, 19 (59.4%) showed a negative "breath test" one week later as well as a significant reduction of symptoms, thus confirming the relationship between SIBO and many of the symptoms claimed by patients. In the other 13 patients, "breath test" remained positive, and a further cycle of treatment with ciprofloxacin 500 mg/d was given for 7 additional days, resulting in a negative "breath test" in one patient only.


(1) About half of the patients with a symptomatic diagnosis of IBS have actually SIBO, which is responsible for most of the symptoms attributed to IBS;

(2) Only a "breath test" with lactulose (or with glucose in subjects with an intolerance to lactose) can provide a differential diagnosis between IBS and SIBO, with almost identical symptoms; [For an explanation of the hydrogen breath test, see]

(3) And the use of non-absorbable antibiotics may be useful to reduce the degree of SIBO and related symptoms; it must be accompanied, however, by the correction of the wrong alimentary habits underlying SIBO.

Source: World Journal of Gastroenterology. 2007 Dec 7;13(45):6016-21. PMID: 18023092, by Esposito I, de Leone A, Di Gregorio G, Giaquinto S, de Magistris L, Ferrieri A, Riegler G. Department of Clinical and Experimental Internal Medicine, Second University of Naples, Italy. [E-mail:]

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