Altered gut microbiota are assumed to be involved in the pathogenesis of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). However, gut microbiota alterations reported in different studies are divergent and sometimes even contradictory. To better elucidate the relationship between altered gut microbiota and IBS, we characterized fecal microbiota of diarrhea-predominant IBS (IBS-D) patients and further explored the effect of rifaximin on gut microbiota using bacterial 16S rRNA gene-targeted pyrosequencing. In our study, IBS-D patients defined by Rome III criteria and age-and-gender matched healthy controls (HC) were enrolled to investigate the fecal microbiota alterations. These IBS-D patients were then treated with rifaximin for 2 weeks and followed up for 10 weeks. Fecal microbiota alterations, small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms of IBS-D patients were analyzed before and after treatment. Our results showed fecal microbiota richness but not diversity was decreased in IBS-D patients as compared to HC and there were alterations of fecal microbiota at different taxonomy levels. The abundant phyla Firmicutes was significantly decreased and Bacteroidetes was increased in IBS-D patients. Moreover, the alterations of predominant fermenting bacteria such as Bacteroidales and Clostridiales might be involved in the pathophysiology of IBS-D. In addition, rifaximin was effective in terms of SIBO eradication and even GI symptoms of IBS-D patients achieved at least 10-week improvement after treatment. Furthermore, rifaximin induced alterations of some special bacteria rather than affected the overall composition of microbiota in IBS-D patients. Meanwhile, a potential decrease in propanoate and butanoate metabolism was found in these IBS-D patients after rifaximin treatment. Taken together, there were alterations of gut microbiota in IBS-D patients as compared to HC. Rifaximin could relieve GI symptoms, modify gut microbiota in IBS-D patients and eradicate SIBO in those patients with SIBO, suggesting an additional therapeutic mechanism of rifaximin in the treatment of IBS-D. Our findings of compositional gut microbiota alterations in IBS-D and the effect of rifaximin on the gut microbiota implied that altered gut microbiota were associated with the pathogenesis of IBS.
Keywords: 16S rRNA gene-targeted pyrosequencing; gut microbiota; irritable bowel syndrome; rifaximin; small intestinal bacterial overgrowth.