Diagnosis by Microbial Culture, Breath Tests and Urinary Excretion Tests, and Treatments of Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth

Antibiotics (Basel). 2023 Jan 28;12(2):263. doi: 10.3390/antibiotics12020263.


Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) is characterized as the increase in the number and/or alteration in the type of bacteria in the upper gastrointestinal tract and accompanies various bowel symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, gases, diarrhea, and so on. Clinically, SIBO is diagnosed by microbial culture in duodenum/jejunum fluid aspirates and/or the breath tests (BT) of hydrogen/methane gases after ingestion of carbohydrates such as glucose. The cultural analysis of aspirates is regarded as the golden standard for the diagnosis of SIBO; however, this is invasive and is not without risk to the patients. BT is an inexpensive and safe diagnostic test but lacks diagnostic sensitivity and specificity depending on the disease states of patients. Additionally, the urinary excretion tests are used for the SIBO diagnosis using chemically synthesized bile acid conjugates such as cholic acid (CA) conjugated with para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA-CA), ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) conjugated with PABA (PABA-UDCA) or conjugated with 5-aminosalicylic acid (5-ASA-UDCA). These conjugates are split by bacterial bile acid (cholylglycine) hydrolase. In the tests, the time courses of the urinary excretion rates of PABA or 5-ASA, including their metabolites, are determined as the measure of hydrolytic activity of intestinal bacteria. Although the number of clinical trials with this urinary excretion tests is small, results demonstrated the usefulness of bile acid conjugates as SIBO diagnostic substrates. PABA-UDCA disulfate, a single-pass type unabsorbable compound without the hydrolysis of conjugates, was likely to offer a simple and rapid method for the evaluation of SIBO without the use of radioisotopes or expensive special apparatus. Treatments of SIBO with antibiotics, probiotics, therapeutic diets, herbal medicines, and/or fecal microbiota transplantation are also reviewed.

Keywords: 5-aminosalicylic acid; conjugated bile acids; diagnosis of SIBO; para-aminobenzoic acid; small intestinal bacterial overgrowth; treatments of SIBO; ursodeoxycholic acid.

Publication types

  • Review

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This research received no external funding.