Background: The colonic mucosa is highly dependent upon the presence of luminal nutrients. This dependence is most marked in the distal colon. The major luminal nutrients are short chain fatty acids that are produced as a by-product of colonic fermentation of carbohydrates. Butyrate appears to be the short chain fatty acid most avidly metabolized by the colonic mucosa. It has been suggested that ulcerative colitis is, at least in part, related to an energy deficiency state of the colonic mucosa which may be secondary to impaired short chain fatty acid production, uptake or utilization. The objective of this study was to determine if butyrate given as enema therapy is effective in the treatment of active distal ulcerative colitis.
Methods: Thirty-eight patients with distal ulcerative colitis were randomly assigned to receive nightly butyrate (n = 19) or saline/placebo (n = 19) enemas. Butyrate enemas consisted of 60 mL of 80 mM sodium butyrate titrated to a pH of 7.0. Patients were assessed clinically and endoscopically at baseline and at 3 and 6 weeks follow-up. Pre- and post-treatment mucosal biopsies were assessed histologically. Response to therapy was determined by changes in a 12-point clinical disease activity index score based on patient symptoms, endoscopic mucosal appearance and physicians' global assessment.
Results: Clinical improvement was noted in seven of 19 (37%) butyrate-treated patients and nine of 19 (47%) placebo-treated patients (P = 0.51). Clinical remission was achieved in three patients in each group (16%). No toxicity was observed in either treatment arm.
Conclusions: The results suggests that once nightly 60 mL butyrate enemas (80 mmol/L) are not efficacious in the treatment of distal ulcerative colitis.