The concept of augmenting the management of irritable bowel syndrome with antibiotics is evolving, and many questions remain regarding this therapy relative to known and hypothesized irritable bowel syndrome pathophysiology.
The clinical evidence of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth as an important aetiology of irritable bowel syndrome continues to accumulate.
Clinical symptoms of bacterial overgrowth and irritable bowel syndrome are similar; however, a definitive cause-and-effect relationship remains unproven.
|Rifaximin demonstrated sustained benefits in irritable bowel syndrome patients.|
| Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics |
It is unclear whether motility dysfunction causes bacterial overgrowth or whether gas products of enteric bacteria affect intestinal motility in irritable bowel syndrome.
Dr C. L. Frissora and a colleague from the USA discuss the efficacy and tolerability of current symptom-directed pharmacotherapies and of antibiotics in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome.
A computerized search of PubMed was performed with search terms ‘IBS', ‘pharmacotherapy' and ‘antibiotics'.
Relevant articles were selected, and the reference list of selected articles was reviewed to identify additional references.
The search results showed that antibiotic treatment benefits a subset of irritable bowel syndrome patients.
The non-absorbed antibiotic rifaximin has a favourable safety and tolerability profile compared with systemic antibiotics, and demonstrates a therapeutic efficacy comparable with symptom-based irritable bowel syndrome pharmacotherapies.
Rifaximin is the only antibiotic with demonstrated sustained benefit beyond therapy cessation in irritable bowel syndrome patients in a placebo-controlled trial.
Dr Frissora concluded that, "Whether antibiotics can improve quality of life in patients with irritable bowel syndrome warrants further research".