Aim: To investigate the effects of a probiotic formulation, VSL#3, on gastrointestinal transit and symptoms of patients with Rome II irritable bowel syndrome with predominant diarrhoea.
Methods: Twenty-five patients with diarrhoea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome were randomly assigned to receive VSL#3 powder (450 billion lyophilized bacteria/day) or matching placebo twice daily for 8 weeks after a 2-week run-in period. Pre- and post-treatment gastrointestinal transit measurements were performed in all patients. Patients recorded their bowel function and symptoms daily in a diary during the 10-week study, which was powered to detect a 50% change in the primary colonic transit end-point.
Results: There were no significant differences in mean gastrointestinal transit measurements, bowel function scores or satisfactory global symptom relief between the two treatment groups, pre- or post-therapy. Differences in abdominal bloating scores between treatments were borderline significant (P = 0.09, analysis of covariance). Further analysis revealed that abdominal bloating was reduced (P = 0.046) with VSL#3 [mean post- minus pre-treatment score, - 13.7; 95% confidence interval (CI), - 2.5 to - 24.9], but not with placebo (P = 0.54) (mean post- minus pre-treatment score, - 1.7; 95% CI, 7.1 to - 10.4). With the exception of changes in abdominal bloating, VSL#3 had no effect on other individual symptoms: abdominal pain, gas and urgency. All patients tolerated VSL#3 well.
Conclusion: VSL#3 appears to be promising in the relief of abdominal bloating in patients with diarrhoea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome. This is unrelated to an alteration in gastrointestinal or colonic transit.