An Oral Antibiotic Reduces the Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a very common chronic condition.  The most common symptoms of IBS are crampy abdominal pain, painful diarrhea or constipation, and abdominal bloating.  The cause of IBS is unknown.  Many of my patients suffer from it.  The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has an informative website about the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of IBS.

Last month the Annals of Internal Medicine published an important article about this common problem by a research team led by Dr. Mark Pimentel, a gastroenterologist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.  The study randomized 87 patients with IBS into two groups.  One group received rifaximin (an oral antibiotic that is not absorbed by the gut into the rest of the body) for 10 days.  The other group received placebo.

The group receiving the antibiotic had less IBS symptoms, and the improvement lasted for 10 weeks, long after the last antibiotic pill was taken.  Rifaximin is fairly safe and side effects were rare and not severe.

Rifaximin is by no means a cure of IBS, but for those whose symptoms are very bothersome, this study may represent an important advance.

Tangential Miscellany:

The Cedars-Sinai Medical Staff Pulse interviewed me about my practice.

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