Post-infectious irritable bowel syndrome: mechanistic insights into chronic disturbances following enteric infection

World J Gastroenterol. 2014 Apr 14;20(14):3976-85. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v20.i14.3976.


Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a commonly encountered chronic functional gastrointestinal (GI) disorder. Approximately 10% of IBS patients can trace the onset of their symptoms to a previous a bout of infectious dysentery. The appearance of new IBS symptoms following an infectious event is defined as post-infectious-IBS. Indeed, with the World Health Organization estimating between 2 and 4 billion cases annually, infectious diarrheal disease represents an incredible international healthcare burden. Additionally, compounding evidence suggests many commonly encountered enteropathogens as unique triggers behind IBS symptom generation and underlying pathophysiological features. A growing body of work provides evidence supporting a role for pathogen-mediated modifications in the resident intestinal microbiota, epithelial barrier integrity, effector cell functions, and innate and adaptive immune features, all proposed physiological manifestations that can underlie GI abnormalities in IBS. Enteric pathogens must employ a vast array of machinery to evade host protective immune mechanisms, and illicit successful infections. Consequently, the impact of infectious events on host physiology can be multidimensional in terms of anatomical location, functional scope, and duration. This review offers a unique discussion of the mechanisms employed by many commonly encountered enteric pathogens that cause acute disease, but may also lead to the establishment of chronic GI dysfunction compatible with IBS.

Keywords: Enteric pathogen; Immune alterations; Infectious diarrhea; Inflammatory disorders; Post-infectious irritable bowel syndrome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Dendritic Cells / cytology
  • Diarrhea / microbiology
  • Enterochromaffin Cells / cytology
  • Humans
  • Inflammation
  • Intestines / pathology
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / complications*
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / immunology
  • Macrophages / cytology
  • Mast Cells / cytology
  • Microbiota
  • Stomach Diseases / immunology
  • Stomach Diseases / microbiology*


  • Cytokines