Predictors of Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth in Symptomatic Patients Referred for Breath Testing

J Clin Med Res. 2020 Oct;12(10):655-661. doi: 10.14740/jocmr4320. Epub 2020 Sep 21.


Background: Indications for a breath test (BT) are well established in the symptomatic patient with risk factors predisposing them to small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). Characteristics and the profile of this population are not well known. Our objective was to study the characteristics of patients undergoing a BT for SIBO and to identify factors associated with a positive BT.

Methods: Retrospective study was conducted from 2012 to 2016 at the neurogastroenterology unit of the Centre Hospitalier de l'Universite de Montreal (CHUM). All patients who completed a BT (lactulose and/or glucose) were included. Demographics and clinical factors were analyzed to identify predictors of positive BT. Type of antibiotic treatment and clinical response were compiled. Groups of patients with (SIBO+) and without SIBO (SIBO-) were also compared.

Results: A total of 136 patients were included in the study (mean age 51.2, range 20 - 80 years; 63% women), and SIBO was detected in 33.8% (n = 46). Both groups were similar in terms of age, body mass index, and gender. SIBO was significantly associated with the presence of abdominal pain (odds ratio (OR) = 4.78; P < 0.05), bloating (OR = 5.39; P < 0.05), smoking (OR = 6.66; P < 0.05), and anemia (OR = 4.08; P < 0.05). No association was identified with gender, age, obesity, and risk factors for SIBO. Antibiotics were used in 43% of patients with a positive BT, but clinical response was not significantly different in the subgroup that received antibiotics versus the subgroup that did not.

Conclusions: The prevalence of SIBO is high in symptomatic patients who underwent breath testing. Abdominal pain, bloating, smoking, and anemia are strongly associated with SIBO. Treatment of SIBO with antibiotics needs to be further investigated to better determine its efficacy on gastrointestinal symptoms.

Keywords: Antibiotics; Breath test; Gastrointestinal symptoms; Predictors; Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth.