Background: The role of gut microbiota in the pathophysiology of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is supported by various lines of evidence, including differences in mucosal and faecal microbiota between patients with IBS and healthy individuals, development of post-infectious IBS, and the efficacy of some probiotics and nonsystemic antibiotics (e.g. rifaximin).
Aim: To review the literature regarding the role of rifaximin in IBS and its potential mechanism(s) of action.
Methods: A literature search was conducted using the terms 'rifaximin', 'irritable bowel syndrome' and 'mechanism of action'.
Results: Rifaximin was approved in 2015 for the treatment of IBS with diarrhoea. In contrast to other currently available IBS therapies that require daily administration to maintain efficacy, 2-week rifaximin treatment achieved symptom improvement that persisted ≥12 weeks post-treatment. The mechanisms of action of rifaximin, therefore, may extend beyond direct bactericidal effects. Data suggest that rifaximin may decrease host proinflammatory responses to bacterial products in patients with IBS. In some cases, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) may play a role in the clinical symptoms of IBS. Because of the high level of solubility of rifaximin in the small intestine, rifaximin may reset microbial diversity in this environment. Consistent with this hypothesis, rifaximin has antibiotic efficacy against isolates derived from patients with SIBO.
Conclusion: Resetting microbial diversity via rifaximin use may lead to a decrease in bacterial fermentation and a reduction in the clinical symptoms of IBS.
© 2015 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.