Short-course therapy for diarrhea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome: understanding the mechanism, impact on gut microbiota, and safety and tolerability of rifaximin

Chang C1,2. Clin Exp Gastroenterol. 2018 Sep 24;11:335-345. doi: 10.2147/CEG.S167031. eCollection 2018.

Author information

1 New Mexico VA Health Care System, Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Albuquerque, NM, USA, CChang1@salud.unm.edu.

2 Department of Internal Medicine, University of New Mexico School of Medicine, Albuquerque, NM, USA, CChang1@salud.unm.edu.


Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common gastrointestinal (GI) disorder characterized by abdominal pain that occurs with defecation or alterations in bowel habits. Further classification is based on the predominant bowel habit: constipation-predominant IBS, diarrhea-predominant IBS (IBS-D), or mixed IBS. The pathogenesis of IBS is unclear and is considered multifactorial in nature. GI dysbiosis, thought to play a role in IBS pathophysiology, has been observed in patients with IBS. Alterations in the gut microbiota are observed in patients with small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, and overgrowth may occur in a subset of patients with IBS. The management of IBS includes therapies targeting the putative factors involved in the pathogenesis of the condition. However, many of these interventions (eg, eluxadoline and alosetron) require long-term, daily administration and have important safety considerations. Agents thought to modulate the gut microbiota (eg, antibiotics and probiotics) have shown potential benefits in clinical studies. However, conventional antibiotics (eg, neomycin) are associated with several adverse events and/or the risk of bacterial antibiotic resistance, and probiotics lack uniformity in composition and consistency of response in patients. Rifaximin, a nonsystemic antibiotic administered as a 2-week course of therapy, has been shown to be safe and efficacious for the treatment of IBS-D. Rifaximin exhibits a favorable benefit-to-harm ratio when compared with daily therapies for IBS-D (eg, alosetron and tricyclic antidepressants), and rifaximin was not associated with the emergence of bacterial antibiotic resistance. Thus, short-course therapy with rifaximin is an appropriate treatment option for IBS-D.

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