Background: The antibiotic rifaximin is used to treat non-constipated irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Methane production is associated with constipation and its severity in constipation-predominant IBS (C-IBS). A previous retrospective study suggested that rifaximin and neomycin was superior to neomycin alone in improving symptoms in methane-positive subjects.
Aims: To determine the effectiveness of neomycin alone or with rifaximin in improving symptoms in methane-positive C-IBS subjects.
Methods: A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial was performed from 2010 to 2013 at three tertiary care centers. Subjects aged 18-65 with C-IBS (Rome II criteria) and breath methane (>3 ppm) meeting the inclusion and exclusion criteria were recruited. Subjects completed a baseline symptom questionnaire rating the severity of abdominal and bowel symptoms on a visual analog scale and were randomized to receive neomycin and placebo or neomycin and rifaximin for 14 days. Symptom severity was assessed by weekly questionnaire for 2 weeks of therapy and 4 additional weeks of follow-up.
Results: Thirty-one subjects (16 neomycin and placebo, 15 neomycin and rifaximin) were included in the intention-to-treat analysis. Constipation severity was significantly lower in the neomycin and rifaximin group (28.6 ± 30.8) compared to neomycin alone (61.2 ± 24.1) (P = 0.0042), with greater improvement in constipation (P = 0.007), straining (P = 0.017) and bloating (P = 0.020), but not abdominal pain. In the neomycin and rifaximin group, subjects with methane <3 ppm after treatment reported significantly lower constipation severity (30.5 ± 21.8) than subjects with persistent methane (67.2 ± 32.1) (P = 0.020).
Conclusions: Rifaximin plus neomycin is superior to neomycin alone in improving multiple C-IBS symptoms. This effect is predicted by a reduction in breath methane.