Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth in irritable bowel syndrome: are there any predictors?

BMC Gastroenterol. 2010 Feb 22;10:23. doi: 10.1186/1471-230X-10-23.


Background: Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) is a condition in which excessive levels of bacteria, mainly the colonic-type species are present in the small intestine. Recent data suggest that SIBO may contribute to the pathophysiology of Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The purpose of this study was to identify potential predictors of SIBO in patients with IBS.

Methods: Adults with IBS based on Rome II criteria who had predominance of bloating and flatulence underwent a glucose breath test (GBT) to determine the presence of SIBO. Breath samples were obtained at baseline and at 30, 45, 60, 75 and 90 minutes after ingestion of 50 g of glucose dissolved in 150 mL of water. Results of the glucose breath test, which measures hydrogen and methane levels in the breath, were considered positive for SIBO if 1) the hydrogen or methane peak was >20 ppm when the baseline was <10 ppm, or 2) the hydrogen or methane peak increased by 12 ppm when baseline was >or=10 ppm.

Results: Ninety-eight patients were identified who underwent a GBT (mean age, 49 y; 78% female). Thirty-five patients (36%) had a positive GBT result suggestive of SIBO. A positive GBT result was more likely in patients >55 years of age (odds ratio [OR], 3.6; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.4-9.0) and in females (OR, 4.0; 95% CI, 1.1-14.5). Hydrogen was detected more frequently in patients with diarrhea-predominant IBS (OR, 8; 95% CI, 1.4-45), and methane was the main gas detected in patients with constipation-predominant IBS (OR, 8; 95% CI, 1.3-44). There was no significant correlation between the presence of SIBO and the predominant bowel pattern or concurrent use of tegaserod, proton pump inhibitors, or opiate analgesics.

Conclusions: Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth was present in a sizeable percentage of patients with IBS with predominance of bloating and flatulence. Older age and female sex were predictors of SIBO in patients with IBS. Identification of possible predictors of SIBO in patients with IBS could aid in the development of successful treatment plans.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Flatulence / microbiology
  • Gases / analysis
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen / analysis
  • Intestine, Small / microbiology*
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / microbiology*
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Methane / analysis
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors
  • Young Adult


  • Gases
  • Hydrogen
  • Methane