Rifaximin for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth in patients without irritable bowel syndrome

Ann Clin Microbiol Antimicrob. 2014 Oct 17;13:49. doi: 10.1186/s12941-014-0049-x.


Background: Rifaximin is a minimally absorbed antibiotic with high luminal activity, used to treat various gastrointestinal diseases. Although rifaximin has been proposed as first line treatment for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), few data are available regarding its efficacy in non-IBS subjects. We aimed to assess the ability of rifaximin to normalize lactulose-H2 breath tests in non-IBS subjects with symptoms suggestive of SIBO.

Materials and methods: Consecutive non-IBS patients presenting with bloating and flatulence were prospectively recruited and submitted to lactulose-H2 breath testing (LBT). Patients who had a positive result were offered rifaximin 1200 mg daily for 10 days. Breath testing was repeated two weeks after treatment completion in all patients in order to assess for response.

Results: A total of 19 patients with a positive result received rifaximin and repeated the breath test (7 (36.8%) males, age 56.5 ± 17.6 years). The mean peak hydrogen excretion was 13.7 ± 2.8 and 10.3 ± 7.3 ppm at baseline and following rifaximin treatment, respectively (t = 1.98, p = 0.06). LBT normalized in 8/19 (42.1%) subjects. No patients reported symptom resolution. No adverse events were reported.

Discussion: Strengths include the study's prospective design. Limitations include the small sample size and open label design.

Conclusion: Rifaximin was not effective in normalizing LBT in our cohort of non-IBS subjects with symptoms suggestive of SIBO.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Breath Tests
  • Cohort Studies
  • Dysbiosis / drug therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intestine, Small / microbiology*
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Lactulose / analysis
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Rifamycins / therapeutic use*
  • Rifaximin
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Rifamycins
  • Lactulose
  • Rifaximin