Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease diagnosed by transient elastography and liver biopsy

Int J Clin Pract. 2021 Apr;75(4):e13947. doi: 10.1111/ijcp.13947. Epub 2021 Feb 16.


Background: We aimed to determine if there was a higher incidence of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) than in patients without NAFLD. Moreover, we assessed whether patients with significant fibrosis (SF) had a higher incidence of SIBO compared with patients with non-significant or no liver fibrosis.

Methods: NAFLD was diagnosed in 117 patients by using Fibroscan with a controlled attenuation parameter (CAP) as well as liver biopsy (LB). SIBO was defined by esophagogastroduodenoscopy with an aspiration of the descending duodenum.

Results: Patients with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and those with SF on LB had a significantly higher incidence of SIBO than patients without NASH and those without SF, respectively (P < .05). According to histological characteristics, there was a higher proportion of patients in the SIBO group with higher steatosis and fibrosis grade, lobular and portal inflammation, and ballooning grade (P < .001). In multivariate analysis, significant predictors associated with SF and NASH were type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) and SIBO. Moreover, in multivariate analysis, significant predictors that were independently associated with SIBO were T2DM, fibrosis stage and ballooning grade (OR 8.80 (2.07-37.37), 2.50 (1.16-5.37) and 27.6 (6.41-119), respectively). The most commonly isolated were gram-negative bacteria, predominantly Escherichia coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae.

Conclusion: In this relatively large population of patients, we used a gold standard for both SIBO (quantitative culture of duodenum's descending part aspirate) and NAFLD (LB), and we demonstrated that NASH patients and those with SF had a higher incidence of SIBO. Moreover, significant predictors independently associated with SIBO were T2DM, fibrosis stage and ballooning grade. Although TE is a well-investigated method for steatosis and fibrosis detection, in our study, independent predictors of SIBO were histological characteristics of NAFLD, while elastographic parameters did not reach statistical significance.

MeSH terms

  • Biopsy
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2*
  • Elasticity Imaging Techniques*
  • Humans
  • Liver / diagnostic imaging
  • Liver Cirrhosis
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease* / complications