WEDNESDAY, Jan. 5 (HealthDay News) -- A two-week course of an antibiotic relieved bloating and other symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, a common gastrointestinal disorder, for more than two months after treatment ended, new research shows.
Researchers say the antibiotic, rifaximin, made by Salix Pharmaceuticals, is the first treatment for irritable bowel syndrome that gets at the underlying cause of the condition, rather than just treating the symptoms.
The findings are published in the Jan. 6 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
The research involved 1,260 people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) but no constipation. They took either rifaximin or a placebo three times a day for two weeks.
In the four weeks after treatment, nearly 41 percent of those who'd taken rifaximin reported "adequate relief" of IBS symptoms, compared with about 32 percent of the placebo group.
When asked about bloating, about 40 percent in the rifaximin group said they had found relief from this problem, compared with about 30 percent who'd taken the placebo. Bloating can be one of the most vexing aspects of IBS, gastroenterologists said.
People in the rifaximin group also reported less abdominal pain and loose or watery stools, and the effects of the antibiotic therapy persisted 10 weeks after treatment ended.
This is important, said Dr. Yehuda Ringel, a gastroenterologist and associate professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a study co-author.
Current treatments, including anti-diarrheal and anti-constipation medications, target only the symptoms of IBS and work only as long as people continue taking the drugs, Ringel said. But rifaximin may do more.
"This research shows that antibiotics work for patients with IBS, suggesting the intestinal microbiota has a role in causing this condition," Ringel said. "
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