Gastrointestinal bacterial overgrowth: pathogenesis and clinical significance

Ther Adv Chronic Dis. 2013 Sep;4(5):223-31. doi: 10.1177/2040622313496126.


Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) is defined as the presence of an abnormally high number of coliform bacteria in the small bowel. It is associated with a broad range of predisposing small intestinal motility disorders and with surgical procedures that result in bowel stasis. The most common symptoms associated with SIBO include diarrhea, flatulence, abdominal pain and bloating. Quantitative culture of small bowel contents and a variety of indirect tests have been used over the years in an attempt to facilitate the diagnosis of SIBO. The indirect tests include breath tests and biochemical tests based on bacterial metabolism of a variety of substrates. Unfortunately, there is no single valid test for SIBO, and the accuracy of all current tests remains limited due to the failure of culture to be a gold standard and the lack of standardization of the normal bowel flora in the small intestine. Currently, the ideal approach to treat SIBO is to treat the underlying disease, eradicate overgrowth, and address nutritional deficiencies that may be associated with the development of SIBO.

Keywords: motility disorder; small intestinal bacterial overgrowth; testing; treatment.