Background/aims: This study was undertaken to validate the usefulness of the culture of duodenal biopsy specimens and gastric aspirate compared to the culture of small bowel aspirate for diagnosing small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. We also investigated the occurrence of predisposing conditions in these patients.
Methodology: Seventy five consecutive patients, admitted because of symptoms which caused us to suspect small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, were studied. For all patients, specimens for the culture of small bowel aspirate, duodenal biopsies and gastric aspirate were obtained during upper endoscopy.
Results: Eighteen patients showed growth of gram negative bacteria, 22 growth of gram positive bacteria and 35 showed no significant growth in cultures of small bowel aspirate. Cultures of duodenal biopsies revealed gram negative bacteria in 11 patients, gram positive bacteria in 9 and no growth in 55. Cultures of gastric aspirate revealed gram negative bacteria in 7 patients, gram positive bacteria in 12 and no growth in 51. Ten of the 18 patients with gram negative overgrowth and 13 of the 22 patients with gram positive overgrowth had a predisposing condition. In contrast, only 4 of the 35 without overgrowth had a predisposing condition.
Conclusions: The culture of duodenal biopsy specimens or gastric aspirate is a less sensitive method than the culture of small bowel aspirate. Most patients with culture-proven small intestinal bacterial overgrowth had at least one predisposing condition.